How can the outside world help Africa? There is no easy answer. ... The latest aid-givers' consensus is to identify “good” countries, still quite a small bunch, and let them spend the cash as they see fit. Yet time and again, good guys—most recently, Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni—slip back into old despotic ways, putting aid-givers into a quandary. By punishing governments, are they not hurting the innocent poor?It seems to me that Africa is crying out for outcome-based policy. A Social Policy Bond regime would inextricably tie rewards to outcomes. In Africa that is an urgent need. Also important is that Africa's problems are so desperate that the continent's wellbeing can be accurately targeted by quantifiable indicators, such as literacy, infant mortality, longevity etc. (That's not always true in the rich world.) We see in Africa (and North Korea ) governments' total cynicism: they are quite happy to bargain away their citizens' lives for a few more years in power. We need ways of mobilizing people to remove government corruption, or to bypass or, failing that, to undermine recalcitrant governments, in order to achieve basic human needs for their people. Social Policy Bonds, whether backed by concerned in the west, or by wealthy individuals or NGOs, would do generate incentives for such a mobilization. The current political system is failing. True, 'there's no easy answer', but motivating people to channel their ingenuity into finding answers has hardly yet been tried.
30 April 2007
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