Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Canada Chided For "Lack of Interest" in Jeffrey Sachs' Agenda

Jeffrey Sachs disappointed in lack of ideological commitment

If anything is absolutely certain about Jeffrey Sachs, it's that he has everything about poverty in the developing world figured out.

Or at least he thinks he does.

Sachs' policies regarding alleviating poverty in the developing world have been nothing if not a spectacular failure. Yet instead of examining his own policies to figure out what's gone wrong, he prefers to simply blame countries that don't share his agenda in all its ideological glory.

Especially Canada.

But not Canada alone. Apparently, the United States is to blame as well.

“Where we are in 2010 is mostly a testimony about ourselves,” Sachs said. “Neither the Harper government nor the Obama administration is doing close to what I would expect of our countries living in the wealth and comfort of North America.”

So not just Canada. But mostly Canada.

“It’s just been very disappointing for me,” Sachs complained. “I’ve grown up believing in Canada’s leadership.”

Of course Sachs may simply be forgetting that Canada has taken the lead on a maternal health initiative for the developing world.

Sachs seems upset that countries in the developing world have hard choices to make.

“All of them were discussing whether to have children in school or whether to have mothers saved in childbirth or whether to have vaccine problems, because [they] can’t do all of these things,” Sachs fumed. “It’s an impossible choice.”

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin, who committed Canada to following Sachs' agenda, is similarly disappointed.

"When the Canadian numbers were revised down, that was a reneging on our commitment," Martin complained. "The 'reclarifying' of numbers, which Canada, Italy and France engaged in, is exactly the kind of thing that must not happen in the future."

Of course what Martin fails to mention is that the commitment Martin speaks of was the commitment of the government that he led. A future government was well within its rights to reevaluate the decision, and in the case of the Millenium Development Goals, was particularly right to have done so.

But Martin also admits that many of the countries due to be recipients of this generous aid commitment have their own part to play -- one they haven't played.

"Recipient countries have got to come to the table," Martin insisted. "When the MDGs were set up, it was with governments that said they would do certain things, for instance in education, and a number of those countries have not done it."

But even the commitments made by the countries in question were the wrong commitments.

New York University Economist William Easterly has been clear about the shortcomings of the economy of the developing world.

One of these shortcomings is the lack of key economic infrastructure -- banks, stock exchanges, securities regulators, courts of law -- that make a healthy economy possible in the first place. While the developing-world versions of institutions don't currently need to be nearly as sophisticated as they are in the developed world, they do need to impose a basic degree of law and order over these economies -- the kind that can contain and eliminate corruption and cronyism.

Beyond even that, Sachs' prized MDGs represent everything that has been wrong with the developed world's approach to fighting poverty in the developing world: they are centrally-planned, largely by the donors, and do not necessarily reflect the real needs of these economies.

They reflect the opinion of what Jeffrey Sachs and his cohorts think these countries need, and following the same broken model of sending billions and billions of dollars into the coffers of governments that have tended to either waste the funds, or steal them outright.

Jeffrey Sachs can be as disappointed as he likes that Canada has backed away from his agenda. His policies have overwhelmingly failed -- something that Sachs has declined to even acknowledge, let alone take responsibility for -- and it's time for a more constructive approach.

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