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Stephen Lewis on hot seat over aid

Economist criticizes celebrated ex-UN envoy at debate on success of relief for Africa

Jun 02, 2009
IAIN MARLOW
STAFF REPORTER/Toronto Star


DAVID COOPER PHOTOS/TORONTO STAR
Dambisa Moyo, African-born Oxford- and Harvard-educated economist, and Stephen Lewis, Canada's celebrated former UN special envoy for HIV-AIDS, trade insights at Munk Debate on Foreign Aid at the ROM June 1, 2009.

Dambisa Moyo is possibly the only person who can get applause in Canada by saying, after listening to Stephen Lewis speak, "If you listen to what Stephen has said, it's littered with negatives."

It helps, of course, that Moyo is a celebrated African-born, Oxford- and Harvard-educated economist. She is also the author of Dead Aid, a book scathingly critical of current Western aid policies.

The multiple exchanges between Moyo and Canada's celebrated former UN special envoy for HIV-AIDS took place last night at the Munk Debate on Foreign Aid at the Royal Ontario Museum. About 800 packed the auditorium while 300 watched on big screens.

The debate also featured Hernando de Soto, a Peruvian thinker and development consultant, and Paul Collier, an Oxford professor and government adviser.

The debate topic was: "Whether aid has done more harm than good." Collier and Lewis said no; Moyo and de Soto said yes.

But it was really a two-person show between Lewis and Moyo, both extremely passionate and involved personally with the plight of Africa.

At one point, after a vigorous defence of Western foreign aid, Lewis pointed out that Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, bought Moyo's book for his entire cabinet.

"Did you autograph it?" Lewis asked her. She replied jokingly: "Of course, and they gave me aid money."

In another exchange, Moyo said, to rapturous applause, "You've had your chance and you have not delivered," noting that, after roughly 40 years of aid, Africa still has many problems including endemic corruption, widespread poverty and dismal economies.

Despite the spirited exchanges, there was agreement on a simple point - aid has done some good and some bad.

It has cut malaria rates by providing mosquito nets but it has fuelled corruption across Africa, continuing the Cold War tradition of propping up unaccountable dictators.

There was also disagreement on China's role in Africa; Collier and Lewis argued that China's investment fuelled corruption and funded human rights catastrophes like that in Sudan's Darfur region. Moyo and de Soto argued that China's infrastructure-focused investment and trade provided the economic growth that Western aid never did.

Moyo suggested Africa climb out of poverty with private investment and reliance on global finance, suggestions Lewis said were rendered moot by the global financial crisis. Collier argued that, even in the boom years, private investors never showed much interest in African economies, outside of natural resources.

Source: TheStar.com http://www.thestar.com/article/643945

Toronto Star -
"Reproduced with permission - Torstar Syndication Services"

Toronto Star
www.TheStar.com

 

 

 

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