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Ethiopia: The Morality of Development and its Operatives

November 30, 2012


From  all innovations in 21st century, international development assistance for Less Developed Countries (LDC) escaped scrutiny through elaborate PR stunt. International aid agencies in partnership with ruling tyrants’ of LDCs defy every rule in governace doing essentially noting except justify spending more good money after bad regimes.

Professor William Easterly of Development Research Institute at New York University  and a stanch critic of foreign Aid to authoritarian regimes came up with yet another innovative ways to explain the double standard of morality of foreign aid as surveyed on the Social Media:


Stuff White People Like on Development

Social Media hits chart

The survey reinforces part of the cause of poverty; partnering with cause of the poverty (authoritarian regimes) corresponds with their feeling than their rational.  Thus, the cause of poverty must be a function of Western version of morality than the rational of good governance.

The bold statement might not sit well for the new breed of development innovators like Gates/Bono of the world (the funders), the apologist on both sides (the middlemen) and the tyrants of Africa (the recipients).  Therefore, the conventional morality of helping the poor in partnership with the totalitarian regime is fast running out of oxygen; sustained by innovative PR stunt at this givers end and at a gun point at the receiving end, what a record?

Exploring the nitty-gritty of the unholy aligns between tyranny and Western Aid’ might enlighten us on the incentive system embodied in the morality of ‘partnering with the ‘devil’ to help the poor.

The cause of poverty isn’t a mystery. It is over researched subject by high caliber experts with six figure salaries as well as ‘poor’ students of the Economics of Poverty. Therefore, no additional research or investigation is required. But, noting is repulsive to claim the unholy partnership between authoritarian regimes and foreign aid agencies’ would help the poor and make economic development possible.  It is equivalent to claim; solving the problem of elicits drug use by partnering with drug cartels is possible. It doesn’t have traction but, purely a public relation stunt instigated by the beneficiary of foreign aid from the provider and recipient end of the equation.

Absence of any tangible evidence the status qua to solve the problem of poverty and underdevelopment in the last 50 years to brag about the new partnership with tyrants would hold water is immoral and bankrupt.  Besides transferring wealth to the ruling elites to sustain modern tyranny disguises as development regime and the managers of foreign aid disguised as innovators to remain employed, crying wolf backed up by cheap PR remains the usual insult to the public intelligence. In fact, the expenditure of the industry expanded exponentially; a costly proposition to benefit the usual suspects than the poor.

In the middle of the mess are the de-facto spokespersons and middlemen/ entrepreneurs of foreign Aid Jeffrey David Sachs, an economist and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the Millennium Development Goals and the author of ‘The End of Poverty’. And, Prof Joseph Eugene Stieglitz, an economist and a Professor at Columbia University and a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2001). The former senior vice president and Chief Economist of the World Bank among many titles under his belt is another individual with kin interest in economic development in partnership with authoritarian regimes of the world, the late Melse Zenawi of Ethiopia being his favorite.

In the other camp are their indigenous African counterparts that gave the partnership a local face between the funders (mostly Western and white) and the recipient (mostly African and black).  Among them isKhalid Bomba, the CEO of the newly establishedEthiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA).

The Agency he leads is a product Bill Gate Foundation’s Agriculture Development initiative where Bomba worked prior taking the position as the first CEO of ATA. No one knows whether he lobbied Bill Gate to partner with the late Ethiopian tyrant to end up financing the Agency formation, but becoming the first CEO of a ‘Government Agency’ for non citizen Diaspora with the over all scheme of ‘Development State’ speaks for itself and beg for more investigation.

The other fellow is Awash Teklehaimanot, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at Colombia University-Center for Global Health and Economic Development. He is also the Director of the Center for National Health Development in Ethiopia (CNHDE) under the leadership of Prof. Sachs.  A close confidant of the late Melse Zenawi believed to be the facilitator of the relationship of Sachs and Stieglitz with the late Prime Minster.

As evident, Bill Gate Foundation’s work and PR stunt corresponds with the two individuals’ effort in Agriculture and Health Development in Ethiopia respectively, the favorite industry for Foreign Aid.  It is also true in every sector with local and international middlemen playing the major role of selling poverty for the highest bidder.

All these highly educated and capable individuals reduced to align with an authoritarian and corrupt regime in the name of solving the problem of poverty and underdevelopment tells the story of where things went wrong. For sure, with such intellectuals around to cover up for bad governance, the likelihood the problem will go away is remote, if not impossible.  The most expected is the expansion of poverty thus, corruption and undermining democratic rule to sustain tyranny.

Though it is not unusual for home grown intellectuals to be politically motivated to sustain tyranny if not corrupted to compromise their professional integrity there is no explanation for worlds’ renowned intellectuals in the Free World reduced to speak on behalf of small time tyrants.

In the absences of explanation, we can safely speculate. Lack of professional integrity and morality may explain their behavior. Other than that, what possible reasons may motivate them to travel the lower road?  Could it be the regimes’ cohorts have something to do with compromising them to join?

Sachs’ and Stieglitz’s behavior was summed up by their colleague Jagdish Bhagwati, Professor of Economics and Law at Colombia University. His bold critic of the two reflects the frustration of many. Referring to their September 2010 activities during the African Summits at the United Nation; followed by the accolade given to Meles Zenawi by Committee on Global Thought (CGE)  led by Prof.  Stieglitz at Columbia University, he wrote to the Columbia Economics faculty:

… as soon as you dilute these objectives [i.e., teaching and high-quality research, the twin pillars of universities' functioning] by giving unaccountable power and funds to “entrepreneurs” whose objective is to use the University to advance their own agendas, you get into situations like the one you object to. It seems probable that the President’s office was merely reproducing uncritically the rubbish that was supplied by one of these Columbia entrepreneurs whose objective is to ingratiate himself with influential African leaders regardless of their democratic and human-rights record, to get PR and “goodies” for themselves at African summits, at the UN where these leaders have a vote, etc.”

Professor/ Attorney Alemayehu G. Mariam, a lecturer in Political Science at California State University, San Bernardino, andunapologetic critic of tyranny and their Western enablers put it even more boldly:

‘According to the Stieglitz-Sachs theory, decisive and benevolent dictators powered by massive amounts of panhandled Western aid could pull Ethiopia and Africa out of the darkness of poverty into the sunshine of development. All of the human rights stuff is a frivolous distraction that should be ignored in the single-minded pursuit of the Holy Grail of foreign aid to solve the problem of poverty once and for all by 2015, if one is to believe, as does Sachs, in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Such fatuous nonsense has become the credo of the Western foreign aid world thanks to the likes of Stieglitz and Sachs. In 2010 alone, the U.S. has dropped nearly $1 billion in aid to Ethiopia.

The fact of the matter is that the much vaunted foreign aid provides a lifeline to dictators and stokes the furnace of corruption that incinerates the poor and the powerless on a daily basis in countries such as Ethiopia. Suffice it to say that expecting economic growth from foreign aid is like expecting a harvest from desert rains; only the succulent plants benefit from it.”

The humiliation of unholy partnership with tyrants of Africa wasn’t enough lessons for others to learn when Susan Rise, the US Ambassador to United Nation and many others repeated the same mantra a few years later when the official death of Zenawi was announced. It continued to puzzle many people around the world, particularly in Africa to figure out why Westerners elevate tyrants in disguise of empty development in the name of helping the poor?

For sure, Westerners pampering tyrants with record of atrocities and corruptions is getting out of hand without proportional challenge.  Whether there is precedence to challenge them in the Court of Law for conspiracy to aid and abide tyrants’ is one area that needs exploration by legal experts..

Identifying the offenders, as Oakland Institute did; by compiling land grabbers in Africa and exposing them  to the world through the Media as reported by Business Insider article ‘Meet the Millionaires and Billionaires buying land in Africa’ is one step in the right direction to understand the associated corruption and cronyism in the name of economic development.

Other actions that can be taken by Advocates are a call for boycott of products and services of the offenders and protesting in front of their offices to create public awareness of their transgression.

But, one thing is for sure, the business of pampering tyrants is hanged to dry on a borrowed time. It is a matter of time before the operatives surrender in shame.  It all depends on how much effort and efficiency is exerted in putting them out of business as they should.