Sunday, November 21, 2004


Hunger campaigners help warlords: "When Michael Buerk's first report on the Ethiopian famine was transmitted on BBC News on 23 October 1984, the idea immediately took hold that this was a natural disaster - `a biblical famine', in Buerk's words - which would be alleviated by massive food aid. There was a severe drought in the region, but the creation of famine was a military tactic of the Dergue government of Colonel Haile Mariam Mengistu. For journalists like Buerk and activists like Geldof, the wars in Ethiopia were an inconvenience which were complicating relief efforts. Yet the wars were the principal cause of the tragedy... As it turned out, Mengistu knew a hawk from a handsaw. In 1984-85, up to a billion dollars' worth of aid flowed into Ethiopia. Thousands of Western aid workers and journalists flew in with it. The regime ensured that the visitors converted their Western dollars to the local currency at a rate favourable to the government: in 1985 the Dergue tripled its foreign currency reserves. It used this influx of cash to help build up its war-machine, it commandeered aid vehicles for its own purposes and, by diverting aid supplies, helped feed its armies.... Above all, the government used the aid operation to support its military strategy: it saw food aid as both a tool for consolidating control over disputed territory and as bait for luring people from rebel-held areas into government territory. One point is certain: the war which we helped fuel continued for another six years, claiming many thousands more lives.

Post-colonial Africa: "Today there is no public security. Slavery is found once more in Sudan, and sinister forms of domestic enslavement that involve the trafficking of children exist elsewhere too. Fiscal management is a farce- and Nigerian misappropriation of public funds is a farce played on a global stage. Transport is haphazard and unreliable. Education and public health struggle on in deplorable conditions. And nothing can be done without lies and bribes and payoffs at every step and every social and political level, all public revenues tending to leak away into private hands. Corruption is universal, malignant, and destructive"

Most poor people in our society would not be made better off by more money -- which is why lottery millionaires constantly end up broke.

How do you waste half a billion dollars worth of poverty-alleviation funds? Easy! You give it to a city government to spend. Excerpt: "City Hall squandered much of the half-billion dollars in federal aid it received over the past 30 years to revitalize its downtown and neighborhoods and to recharge its ailing economy, a Buffalo News investigation has found. Buffalo gets more federal community development block grant aid per resident than all but one city in the country because of its pervasive poverty. But three decades and $556 million later, there is scant evidence of the federal government's largess".


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