Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I take it we no longer need a Prime Minister

Somehow I managed to miss this tremendous piece of news. David Cameron who, I believe, is still the Prime Minister in this country (a source of constant surprise to me) has been asked to chair a UN committee to oversee development goals. I was under the impression that a Prime Minister's first task is to be ... well, a Prime Minister of the country he has been elected to lead. It is not as if there were no problems to deal with here. What exactly does he think he is doing chairing ridiculous UN committees? Even Tony Blair, lover of multilateralism and transnationalism par excellence did not do anything so stupid.
The invitation, accepted by the prime minister, represents a political coup for Cameron, who has stuck to the government's commitment to increase overseas aid to 0.7% of UK GDP, despite the recession.
Cameron's agreement makes certain that he will resist any rightwing efforts to cut UK aid, but it may also mean a significant reshaping of the millennium development goals.
The goals decide the international targets of global aid channelled bilaterally and multilaterally through organisations such as the World Bank and the IMF.
The current eight goals range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/Aids and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015. Many will be missed.
I wonder if coup is quite the word to be used here.

Of course, the goals will not be met. How can they be? The whole idea that aid is the way out of poverty has been disproved over and over again and with developed countries need to tighten belts as well as concentrate on their own economic growth, something this excuse for a government is singularly incapable of doing, the hand-outs will slow down. That may not be such a bad thing if it will turn the developing countries' attention to developing their economies through reforming tax systems, creating free trade agreements and making their countries attractive for investment. After all, aid does little beyond keeping bloodthirsty kleptocrats in power and prevent economic development in recipient countries.

Meanwhile, the new World Bank President has been announced and he is, to nobody's particular surprise, President Obama's nominee, Jim Yong Kim, President of Dartmouth College. I have little sympathy for people who moan about the fact that the World Bank presidency always goes to an American (or, in this case, a Korean American). The US puts in the largest slice of money, followed by the European countries. As long as we have a World Bank (and there are very good arguments for its abolition or, at least, scaling down) it will be run by those who pay for it and so it should be.

We have been told endlessly about the way certain rapidly developing countries, of whom Nigeria, the home of the other candidate, is supposed to be one overtaking the West. Fine. Let them do so. Let them stop taking aid from us and pay a larger share of those tranzi organizations they are so in favour of. Then we can talk about the next World Bank President not being American.

Of course, not everyone in the developing world is enamoured of the World Bank, its condescending attempts to run the world economy (as if that were possible) and endless new ideas of how to solve poverty, which can be solved only economic growth and investment.

Franklin Cudjoe, the Founding Director and President of IMANI, the Ghanaian Center of Policy and Education, wrote this:
Part of Dr. Jim Yong Kim's acceptance speech as the new World Bank President read "My discussions with the Board and member countries point to a global consensus around the importance of inclusive growth. We are closer than ever to achieving the mission inscribed at the entrance of the World Bank – Our Dream is a World Free of Poverty" NO! We ordinary citizens of the developing world want you and the World Bank to map out an exit plan to get out of the way for poverty to be solved by entrepreneurs without governmental borders!
Why do I have the feeling that neither Dr Kim nor the Boy-King will listen to those sane words?

In the meantime, do we just assume that we no longer need a Prime Minister?


  1. "We have been told endlessly about the way certain rapidly developing countries, of whom Nigeria, the home of the other candidate, is supposed to be one overtaking the West. Fine. Let them do so. "

    As long as we keep electing representatives who want to play at being world leaders and figureheads we will contine to be made to pay for it.

    It'd be funny if it wasn't so expensive and wrong headed to see how different policies come into conflict with each other. If climate change is the problem we are continually told it is developing countries developing rapidly and doing so by trade is the least worst way of accommodating it. Yet what our betters are angling for is a redistribution of wealth from developed to developing nations which will cause a massive misallocation of resources at both ends.

  2. The problem lies in the structure: as long as we have completely unaccountable and rapidly proliferating tranzis, these idiotic conflicts and pointless changes of policy (if you can call it that) will go on. After all, there is no need for the World Bank to justify its existence or to demonstrate what it has achieved.