Follow-up to my ‘development can’t work’ story: Two ideas to make it better

Here’s a little addendum to my story in The New Republic: Two development ideas I’m (cautiously) excited about.

The more I look at development, the more I think the age of the game-changer is over. Sixty percent of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries; only 14 percent of them are in fragile of conflict-prone ones. The countries still getting aid are getting less and less of it. Charles Kenny, who wrote an entire book about how much better the developing world is now than it used to be, points out that in the 1990s, 40 percent of aid-receiving countries relied on donations for more than one-tenth of their budgets. Now, that’s below 30 percent, and dropping.

Not that we should ignore the Afghanistans and Burundis of the world, but by 2030, up to 41 countries are going to move into the middle-income bracket. Increasingly, their challenge, as ours, will be the distribution of resources, not the creation of them. The development technologies of the future aren’t going to be boreholes and school buildings. They’re going to be labor inspectors, census bureaus, government administrators, state pensions: All the boring stuff that makes our own countries function.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Follow-up to my ‘development can’t work’ story: Two ideas to make it better

  1. Thanks, fellow Berliner, I liked your article in the New Republic. Our take on development is as independent as it gets: establishing local Community Excellence Centers staffed by the best brains of the village, not external “white” personel. Its results are slow (as it should) but once established and connected to the internet, the people in the village community centers can access all the good stuff to improve crop yield, health, education, energy supply, etc.
    I believe the future is more local scale solutions, more autonomy of communities, no dependence on Monsanto (in fact, no dependence on any corporation that relies on continuous extraction to meet their bottom line – this leaves out communication services that can provide as near zero marginal cost (J. Rifkin).
    Would love to talk more about this.

  2. andreainparis

    Just curious to hear your thoughts or what this means for the average donor to humanitarian charities. should we stop giving? give more selectively or to organizations like GiveWell? should we focus on giving to small organizations instead of the big ones? What if we don’t want to work for a humanitarian organization but still want to help? Some say to focus on helping those around us rather than far away? Others says by making political choices that would allow for equal market opportunities. As a donor to these organizations, what do I do with these reflections?

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