02 March 2016

Poverty Inc -- the review

I saw this documentary last year, at Amsterdam's IDFA documentary film festival. It's a brilliant film on the failure of paternalistic international aid (=most of it).

I began my aquaintance with aid, development and bureaucratic failure over 25 years ago, when I read Lords of Poverty as an undergraduate. The thesis there stil holds, i.e., that "development professionals" are more interested in their programs than in the putative beneficiaries of those programs. Since then, I have traveled to nearly 100 countries, read Confessions of an Economic Hitman (correct in its jist if not its facts), published on problems of aid failure ("Save the poor, shoot some bankers"), suggested that water managers "drink their own product," described how poor governance violates a human right to water, explained why people have more phones than toilets, worked on water projects in places like Ukraine, and so on...

This documentary is accurate in explaining the problems of paternalistic aid and how "empowerment" will allow disadvantaged people in poor countries to succeed -- mostly by getting out of their way, i.e., trade not aid.

Poverty Inc is available at iTunes and other places for viewing. Go watch it.**

Bottom Line: I give this film FIVE STARS, as you are hardly likely to find a better diagnosis and treatment to the problem of "aid" making people more, rather than less, poor.

* If you'd like to read a nice farce of these guys, then you could do worse than "The Development Set" [pdf]
** I'm not getting any money from these guys. Indeed, I asked our school to buy the $500 educational edition.

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