Thursday, August 19, 2004

Yada Yada Reducing Poverty Yada Yada

Thabo Mbeki offers up more of the same old predictable boilerplate about "reducing poverty" by a "transfer of resources from rich to poor."

South African president Thabo Mbeki urged the leaders of developing countries to take the initiative in reducing poverty and underdevelopment.

Mr. Mbeki said that the U.N. Millennium Development goals to slash poverty in half by 2015, and improve health and education will not be met without the transfer of resources from the rich to the poor.

"The resources exist within human society to meet those development goals; the question is, what action needs to be taken to make sure that those resources are actually released," he said.

The South African leader was addressing a meeting in Durban of foreign ministers from countries belonging to the Non-Aligned Movement. Among the members are most African countries, some of which are the world's poorest.

Mr. Mbeki told the top diplomats they should not expect rich countries to set the agenda for the developing world.

"I think it is a question that we should try to answer ourselves, because obviously to depend on those who are richer than ourselves to answer the question of how they should transfer resources in their hands into our hands, I think would be hoping for something that is going to be difficult to achieve," he said.
I can't believe that a man with a Masters degree in economics can possibly subscribe to the sort of zero-sum thinking on display here; this has got to be a case of playing to a gallery of corrupt and incompetent despots, rather than stating deeply held convictions. Why should it be necessary for a dime in resources to be "transferred" to the poor to make them richer? And how exactly are the poor supposed to ever attain sustainable gains in prosperity if they're banking on resource "transfers" to improve their lot, unless they entertain impossible fantasies of living off such "transfers" forever? Now, as for that last quoted paragraph, what exactly is Mbeki suggesting there, forcing rich countries to surrender some of their wealth at gunpoint or, more likely, making ever more brazen demands for yet more aid, and in the most sullen fashion possible?

The real solution to the problems of the world's poor is to boost their productivity, which would increase their wealth without taking anything from those that are already better off. That end can best be attained by bringing down the trade and regulatory barriers that hamper growth while providing an economic environment that is conducive to both internal and external long-term investment. Indulging in self-pitying whining for more foreign aid isn't going to do a damn thing for anyone other than perhaps a few African dictators and Swiss bankers.