My views on the Global South

I think the most interesting thing that we discussed during the course was the Great Divergence. The Great Divergence is a topic that has many points that can be argued, in regards as to how and why it happened. Although I am a bit skeptical of convergence, I think that the Global South can catch up in some ways, but not completely.What I found most surprising and what I was unaware of was how the IMF sometimes hurts a country’s situation more than helping it, at least according to William Easterly who believes that the IMF should stay away from countries that are “true disaster states.” I always thought that the IMF was some great organization that truly helped countries in need, but I learned otherwise for certain countries like Argentina. The IMF creates a perpetual circle of debt and poverty for some countries that they are unable to rise out of. What I found useful from this course was how successful is aid really. I always thought that aid was something that was positive, I never thought it could be something negative or that we should stop and think about what we are doing by providing the aid. I never had thought about the fact that by providing aid, Western societies have to be invasive. I was unaware that sometimes providing aid has little benefits, and I didn’t know about the research behind the success of aid.

My views on the causes of poverty in the Global South have not changed much, I was aware the corruption and some of the reasons as to why the Global South is so impoverished, although my opinion of the possibility of the Global North changing poverty in the Global South is much different now. I am now much more skeptical of our ways of helping the developing world. I believe that we have a lot to learn in terms of helping those in need. We need to research more and see if the aid we are providing is actually working. I think that we should continue to provide aid, but I also think we should focus on more programs that help rebuild communities, provide educations, and help the people find a way to provide in the future for their communities. I think that sometimes we just give in the moment without thinking about how to help people in the long run, which is what they truly need. I think that Western society also generalizes states in poverty and thinks that they can all be “fixed” the same way, which is part of the problem. Each state in poverty needs its own plan, that is researched and well thought-out, sometimes each community within a country needs a specialized plan for there to be progress.

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Right Institution is the way forwrd for Global South to alleviate from Poverty

Politics of developing area has broadened my understanding about why global south are poor and global north are rich. The question that I used to asked myself was why global south countries are still wallowing in extreme poverty despite all the foreign assistance they received from global north countries? And the answer that I got from the class is aid without proper or right institution is meaningless.

From the class lectures, I got surprised about the vast economic disparity between US and Mexico despite they shared border and in a same geographical location. Acemoglu and Robinson (2012) elaborates on the historical analysis of the two countries made me understood that economic growth is easily to take place in places with right institutions which encourage individual participation, enforce property right and create equal opportunity which encourage investments in new technologies and skills are more conducive to economic growth than extractive institution which give opportunity to few people. This scenario divulged to me to understand that sharing border with rich country does not guarantee economic growth for the poor country if it does not have right institution in place.

One study that also fascinated me is Jeffery Sachs assertion that generous foreign aid and investment are the best medicine for poor country to get their foot on the ladder of development. He posits that poor countries are not poor because of bad governance but because they do not receive much aid from donor or rich countries. Then the question is why poor countries are still struggling with their economy despite the generous funds they have received from rich countries?

 William Easterly (2005) also opined that despite the good intension behind the loan for the structural adjustment program for global south countries to recover from its economic crisis, it couldn’t even achieve positive results for both donors and the recipient countries and this informed my decision that aid without right institution is meaningless.

Paul collier (2007) bottom billion also got me fascinated about how some government from poor countries divert humanitarian aid to build their military strength despite nation is suffering from hunger. This revelation shows that despite the effort by global north to help poor countries to alleviate from poverty, their government do not make good use of the help they offer meaning they lack institutions which will guide them to utilize and implement the offer very well or setting their priorities right.

Conclusion, the global north should teach global south the right institution which encourage quality education, innovation and patriotic citizens who will see corruption as a crime but not as a norm. Again, global south countries should realize that too much dependent on aid will blind them from seeing the way that will lead them to attain economic growth. And I end it by saying Global north should encourage global south countries to set up strong and right institution but not seeing foreign aid as the messiah for their alleviation from poverty.

‘’Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’’.

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Lessons Learned

The most surprising thing I have learned in this class is that in 2016, development theories are still being tested and tweaked. It was interesting to me that despite the existence of established development careers, recognized international organizations and academic programs such as the one I am enrolled in, development and making a difference is still ‘touch and go’. At first, it was a tad disheartening or discouraging but as Dr. Kendhammer always said, if he (or someone else) “knew the answer they would share it”.

What was most useful however, was the fact that we thoroughly discussed and picked apart the existing theories, venturing off the pages of our required readings and examining them in the context of countries where they have been applied or tested. Added to that, there is of course the newfound knowledge that there really is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the problems facing developing countries. Solutions need to be contextual and there is no one fix for all problems.

One thing I believe is that the urge countries in the Global South have to “catch up” with the Global North or “close the gap” is not very realistic or smart. I have learned there are a wide array of factors that contribute to development in different contexts and I firmly believe that if countries would focus more on addressing their internal problems such as poverty, and growing without comparing to developed countries they would do a lot better in the long run. Growth, change and development should be more about the country and its citizens than about trying to get what or where others are.

With regards to poverty my perspective has definitely changed, poverty is a multi-tiered problem that ought not to be tackled at surface level. There is no one universal, single cause of poverty, as such, the best way to find effective and efficient solutions are to view poverty as the multi-tiered issue it is and tailor solutions that can address more than merely one of the contributing factors. I  do not believe the “aid” approach accomplishes that.

The attempts by the Global North to address problems of poverty in the Global South has had both successes and failures. However, too often they are short term solutions to real, long term issues, also I think development and aid whether in the form of finance, projects, programs have become somewhat of a culture where they are given or done but measures are not put in place to ensure their success. Often the projects and programs themselves are sometimes not very useful in tackling the problems being faced in some countries.

Although the course left me more pessimistic about development and relations between countries, I think the knowledge gained provides a great foundation for the way forward because we know what does not work, what has not worked, that context is important and that there are layers to achieving development. In that regard, I feel better equipped to attempt to address the problem of poverty

Final Blog Post

Politics of Developing Areas was honestly the best course I could have taken as I consider my post-graduation plans. Going into IDS in the future seems ideal, however, this class altered as well as confirmed previous positions on international development and nonetheless makes me more skeptical of the development route I plan to go on.

 

Personally, I found the sections focusing on the great divergence extremely insightful, because the course consistently revisited the challenges to future convergence beyond the specified unit. Prior to the course, I would not have been able to exactly explain or really even guess why the world has split the way it is. Furthering on with that historical information, I would not have been able to conceptualize what could possibly be done to alter the process of divergence in the future, and how international aid could impact it, or even continue the divergence at a greater distance.

 

The entire course encompassed all of the challenges to international development and provided examples as to why these previous abstract deadlines of development have not been met. I do think that time frames run the risk of being damaging. It is reassuring to put an end-goal on a timeline of developmental projects and what is hoped to come out of them. However, it is not easily predictable whether or not the projects will have the timely success as intended, nor is it predictable that the environment that the project/program implemented will enable the change.

 

Hoping to have some sort of career in the developmental field in the future, there was great importance in focusing on the failures of programs such as structural adjustments and state-led development, again (!), why what works in one country does not mean that it can be packaged up and given to another. To focus on a specific country, I thought Japan’s rise was interesting to discuss. It is a country that I did not know a great deal of it’s history and how that tied into its current economic standing in the world sphere through MITI was a concept that I was not familiar with.

 

I do agree with Easterly regarding the accountability aspect of the Global North. Being outsiders to a struggling nation, difficulty presents itself in transparency and legitimacy when trying to assure aid recipients that their projects will be effective and not b driven by self-interest. The whole conversation regarding states acting in their own favor to lend aid to other countries will possibly not end in my lifetime. Whether it be economic advancement or resulting from previous colonial appearance, there is this whole incentive for countries to expand/invade into others.

 

In regards to the Global North combating poverty, I believe that it is doable. I would have to agree with Sach’s in the sense that countries need to get themselves on the ladder through international actors prompting growth. However, the complexity of what that aid looks like or how it will function regarding sustainable growth is an issue that I cannot attempt to give an answer to. I could provide possible to-dos and what not-to-do, but suggesting that these projects will be successful based on other historical accounts or the knowledge of Western scholars is not necessarily justifiable. Also, future development will only be successful if it is done bottom-up as it has been confirmed that implemented programs from above does necessarily mean that they will be successful where they are intended to be. It is so complex!!!! But, nonetheless motivating.

 

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Final Prep Exercise

I found our discussions on the topic of corruption to be quite interesting. I think that the notion of corruption has this strong stigma in the minds of so many people, and there is an automatic rejection of its possible benefits by the connotation of the word alone. Corruption is a widely misunderstood term that many people throw around without completely understanding, and I enjoyed being able to further examine what government corruption really looks like in practice and see that in some ways, it did give benefits to a larger community than just the corrupt individuals or organizations. Not to say that corruption is overall a good thing, but we do see some benefits stemming from corruption in some areas that seem like they wouldn’t exist otherwise. I think too that corruption is a symptom of a larger problem, and efforts that target the destruction of corruption are missing the bigger picture and because of this have generally been unhelpful in attempting to create any real changes.

Overall my views on poverty in the Global South have changed quite drastically while in this class. It is somewhat worrying to me to consider how much I have learned, and then realize that a majority of voters in the US currently know as much as I did about poverty and aid before I entered this course. It’s because of things like this that I worry for the future of Global South countries. People with money to give to development projects think they are helping just by doing something, so often the projects that are implemented (particularly infrastructure projects) are not helpful or at least aren’t the best use of the money if the goal is to improve the lives of people in that community.

When it comes to the intervention of the Global North countries in an attempt to alleviate poverty in the Global South, it seems to me that most plans and projects fail to make a large impact on the betterment of people’s lives. I can certainly say that I’ve gained a more pessimistic view of the world order while in this class, but unlike many I do not consider this to be a bad thing. People who are convinced they are doing good in an environment where they are not being helpful have the potential to do more harm without realizing it. If you are constantly critical of your own actions, you’re more likely to catch things that aren’t working and try to adjust accordingly.

Historically, poor people have had to suffer in order for nations to develop. The Global North’s efforts are aimed at reducing the human costs of development, and have had varying degrees of success and failure. While we may not know what solves the issue of human suffering during development, I like to believe that even little things that can be done to improve the lives of those in the Global South while encouraging sustainable development in any measure is helpful, especially compared to doing nothing.

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Lets take over The Gambia! (Sorry Samba)

To my surprise, my views on the causes of poverty in the Global South have remained relatively the same from the start of this course to the end. The difference is that now, I am able to back up my arguments with facts and statistics, and I have a broader understanding of how we came to be where we are.

Overall, I fall in the Sachs camp of development theory. I am skeptical of the free market and believe that the capitalist system has not only failed to serve underdeveloped areas, but has systemically prevented their growth. While the readings in this course emphasize that traditional aid projects have failed to yield the returns we expect or desire, most have also demonstrated that open market approaches are just as ineffective. And when it comes down to a battle between two ineffective approaches to aid, I choose the Sachs model. Sachs’ saving grace, in my eyes, is that the MVP approach supports the impoverished in the village over an extended period of time, as opposed to developing a system that rewards a few at the top and expects wealth to trickle down.

I was surprised, in the end, by very little, except perhaps the lack of interest that Dr. Kendhammer expressed in Jared Diamond’s explanation for long-run inequality. I stand by that model as the best macro model with which to introduce non-development theorists to the concept of developed vs. undeveloped vs. underdeveloped nations. I think that on a smaller scale Diamond’s explanations can even be used to discuss development differences within large countries like the United States.

To my knowledge the topic of this post was initially scheduled to be something like, “what is the solution?” Here is mine: (apologies in advance to Samba) …

Ohio University should sponsor “Politics of Developing Areas: Spring Semester”, which will be a practical application portion of this class. We as a group should roll into The Gambia in a bunch of Honda Pilots, take over, and begin to exercise control based on our overwhelming knowledge of development issues. We begin by revitalizing the education system, hosting conferences to write a new national constitution and then ratifying it through national vote, and seeking international contracts and monetary aid for infrastructure and business development projects.

Yes, the plan I just outlines is completely based in a white savior complex and yes I am 99% joking. The reason I framed it like I did is to emphasize the following: development is a task that requires all hands on deck. We saw this in regards to development states like Japan and South Korea. In nations like The Gambia, Yahyah Jammeh and leaders like him are not geared towards the same development mindset of a development state. I believe that with the proper people working towards the right goals, development is possible anywhere. (475 words)

Development projects: Quest for measures to validate success

Most development works are done in some form of projects and these projects have goals and objectives in which every effort is given to achieve them. Today’s reading highlight Impact Evaluation (IE) as one of the best methods to measure the success of the project; however, the method itself lacks other aspects to capture greater details to find causality effect on the ground and the need to find real measure and data still posing a challenge in development.

While the challenge remains, there is wide agreement that both funders and project implementers have role to play in order to achieve the intended goals. For example it is clear that to attain a meaningful economic growth in poor countries does not have one solution that can be addressed by structural adjustment that IMF and the World Bank promote. Although this has positive aspects but high level of understanding needs to be reached before signing such agreement as Easterly 2007 point out that it is better that other countries should not be beneficiaries of IMF loans because of their weak government/institutions. This is to protect them from falling into ‘structural adjustment trap’ as it is now a fact that once a poor country engages structural adjustment program it never seem to come out of it. This is where both parties have to play their roles to make sure the deal is fair and instructional components will be implemented without compromise. In addition, the IMF or the World Bank should put a mechanism that will help to reinforce the implementation of the reforms or otherwise the loan should be withdrawn from the country and not giving them another loan because that is taking advantage of desperation situation of the poor country.

Although it seems hopeless to have real changes on the ground, the development practitioners will still work with the tools that are available. In this case, ‘transparency’ is the key to come up the meaningful measures for the projects to succeed. When both parties have to know what is expected and see that they are happy and committed to work hard for the program, the chances of success such scenario is quite high.

As it is at the moment, there is more to be done to say ‘yes’ meaning, the development projects are working, however, the little changes that are happening means something is contributing to it and both parties can work together identify what is contributing to that change and promote it to the context that it favors.

 

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Is the aid actually working?

How are we able to determine if a foreign aid program has worked or not? Are these developing countries better off without the aid we provide? Paul Collier says that when asking if aid is part of the problem or part of the solution, that it is something empirical. We can only determine if aid is truly helping through research and experiments. Collier’s research on determining if aid projects were working showed that aid was playing a large part in preventing more capital flight. Determining if an aid project has worked can mean different things for different people. For some people an aid project working can mean did the money for project actually build the school or was the program established? For the majority of people it means did the aid project improve the livelihood of the poor in the developing world.

One of the ways to provide data as to if an aid project was successful is impact evaluation (IE). The IE gauges the transformation of a community that was occurred due to a project or program was put in place to change it. IE looks at what would have happened if the community didn’t receive the aid provided. The problem with IE is that you can’t determine what a community would be like with or without the program, without intervening.  Although one of the problems with IE is that, “IE tools are best equipped for assessing what a project’s impact was, not how that impact was achieved (Easterly 2009, Deaton 2010),” (Clemens, Demonbynes). Some of the measures required in determining if an aid project was successful are a question of ethics. Jeffrey Sachs says that it’s “ethically not possible to do an intensive intervention of measurement without interventions of actual process (Clemens, Demonbynes, 8).

The IMF sometimes has more success with programs than other organizations because they don’t have very many goals. Although, the problem with the IMF is that it provides short-term fixes to help a country’s economy, that can be compared to a bandaid in some senses because they don’t think about the situation long-term. The IMF works to help countries stabilize their economy by providing money in the form of a loan. William Easterly believes that the IMF should stay away from countries that are considered true disaster states because they already have loans that still need to be repaid, by adding more it just leaves them in a constant state of repaying loans. Since these countries have to constantly pay loans, they are unable to leave their impoverished state. I personally do not think we can answer yes to if an aid project worked, maybe we’re able to say that it helped, but the ways of providing data on this topic seem somewhat arbitrary. There are so many unanswered questions or the information is too generalized and needs to be more specialized to whatever program is being assessed.

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Sources:

Michael Clemens and Gabriel Demombynes, The New Transparency in Development Economics: Lessons from the Millennium Villages Controvery.

Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Falling Behind, and What can be Done About it, Chapter 7

William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much ill and So Little Good, Chapter 6

 

Impact Evaluation of Aid Projects

Evaluating the impact and success of an aid project is dependent on several factors. Collier points to transparency, while Easterly argues that local details are important. Aid projects are generally aimed at improving the lives and circumstances of citizens in developing countries. As such, to paint with a broad brush, one can say that an aid project has worked if it has met the goals it set out to achieve. It is also important to note here that Collier argues once aid reaches approximately 16 percent of a country’s GDP it ceases to be effective, this can also serve as a guide for measuring the impact or success of an aid project. Another important factor in determining the success of an aid project is actually ensuring the aid gets to those who need it. Easterly has a great example of mosquito nets ending up on the black market or being used for other things such as fishing, as opposed to getting to those to need them.

Measures such as consistent data than can be studied by other researchers, interactiveness are key requirements in evaluating the success of an aid project. Clemens and Demombynes also point to key factors such as project outcome, determining whether goals were achieved and determining whether the community within which the project was done was positively impacted. In some cases, randomized controlled trials can be used.  The task is to assess the change brought about through the project and compare it with the change that may have occurred had individuals not been a part of the project. The challenge with this approach however is that one would need a control group of individuals not a part of the project to more accurately assess change and outcomes. There is also the reality that other factors could contribute to the same change the project is claiming responsibility for.

Unfortunately, not all aid projects can be measured by impact evaluation techniques and in those cases, determining whether the project has worked becomes more difficult. Easterly posits that the easier it is to determine whether an aid project is working, the likelihood of success is higher.

While it is possible to answer “yes” to aid projects working, there is the problem of aid projects generally being micro solutions and not macro, essentially placing a bandaid on bullet wounds. However, there are instances where aid projects have worked, likewise there are some sectors where successful projects are more likely or at least easier. Further, Collier points out that aid has tended to be more effective where governance and policies are already reasonable.

I don’t think aid will ever get to that point where it is always 100 percent successful or where it always works. However, I agree with Easterly in his contrast of the “Planner” versus “Searcher” approach. He writes;

“A Planner thinks he already knows the answers,” conversely “A Searcher admits he doesn’t know the answers in advance; he believes that poverty is a complicated tangle of political, social, historical, institutional and technological factors.” Planners trust outside experts. Searchers emphasize homegrown solutions.

Keeping this in mind when planning aid projects may increase the likelihood of answering “yes” to aid projects working.

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REFERENCES

Paul Collier (2007), The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Falling Behind, and What Can Be Done About It, Chapter 7

William Easterly (2006), The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, Chapter 6

Michael Clemens and Gabriel Demombynes (2013), “The New Transparency in Development Economics: Lessons from the Millennium Villages Controversy,” CGDEV Working Paper, #342

11/21 Prep Exercise

In providing aid to developing nations, international development programs, especially from the West, suggest different forms of austerity and trade liberalization. However, institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are often lenient when a recipient nation does not follow programs for development. Furthermore, the IMF’s founding mission is to provide short-term financial aid to countries that need assistance in times emergency crises or economic hardship. Being one of the largest aid institutions in the world, made up of an extensive bureaucracy that is essentially free from the burden of accountability. Their provision of funds has been variant at best, and a catalyst for state failure at worst.

Providing aid requires the investigation of the economic ailment of a country, and utilizing the appropriate “treatment.” To decide whether or not an aid program has worked, the outcome is an important factor. Was poverty alleviated? Did standards of living increase? Or did the poor suffer from the program, or political stability compromised? Finally, the biggest question that must be answered is whether the country progressed, as a prolonged use of the aid without advancement is a sign of a dysfunctional aid program. In the case of the IMF, many nations it aided caused them to develop another program for heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) that provided opportunity for loan forgiveness. The longer a country received aid from the IMF, the more likely it is to get a loan. This would suggest that their aid programs do not work, or at the very least do little to advance a substantial number of recipient countries with the conditions. While the money provided undoubtedly does some good, the lax enforcement of actual development programs, or the social unrest that comes when they are implemented, detracts from the positives of IMF intervention.

Another method of measuring the effectiveness of aid programs is looking at the broader region as a whole and comparing the advances of the areas aided to ones not participating in the program – I believe this rules out many arguments for saying an aid program worked. This is because there are countless non-governmental organizations, aid institutions, and countries providing aid and economic development programs (or suggestions) to developing countries. As Michael Clemens and Gabriel Demombynes said, basing the success of a program on the hypothetical impact of no aid is not reliable. The Millennial Village Project (MVP) sought to aid poor, rural villages of sub-Saharan Africa through a variety of infrastructural and medical interventions, as well as school construction. After the first three years of the program, their first report described improvements as “impacts” of MVP, when similar improvements occurred at similar rates in villages not involved with the program.

For this reason, I believe it is impossible to say whether an aid program “worked.” As a blanket mission for all aid programs, the goal is to alleviate (if not eliminate) poverty. Therefore, an aid program working goes beyond slight changes in living standards or mobile phone ownership – it requires analyzing whether or not the specific program solved any  of the “diseases” of a poor country. In the case of the IMF conditional aid programs and the MVP, I would say no, they did not work. Their “impact” has either been too variant or inconclusive based on other advancements being made in the region. However, I think with proper empirical evaluation, aid programs will eventually be able to say their programs truly “work.”

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