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June 06, 2007

Comments

VanStokkom

Having visited Sauri in november 2006 I can see the enthusiasm of people involved. Changes being achieved. But can it be done without Sachs, Jolie and the world watching. I asked a Sauri citizen. He immediately shared my doubt on that but said that he was happy with everybody watching and supporting..... I would if was living in Sauri. But can Jack and Jill in Mundika do it. Can they get local government moving on electricity, roads and more. Not without millennium money and everybody watching.
This 'experiment' should have been done without all the media attention etc. The it could have delivered proof of concept. Not this way I am afraid.

http://vanstokkom.blogspot.com/2007/03/rapid-victories-against-extreme-poverty.html

Justin Rietz

On the one hand, I truly hope Sach's projects are successful and lead the way for long-term poverty reduction.

However, I hold the same fears as Rich. If there isn't organic economic growth with solid foundational changes occurring from within, it will be difficult to sustain.

I'm reminded of the "model" communities in communist Eastern Europe that were propped up by government funding - they quickly crumbled once the government could no longer afford to support them.

Egidio Vaz

Dear Professor,
Im Egidio Vaz from Mozambique. Reseracher (historian) at southern african research and documentation centre-sardc, Maputo, Mozambique.
I really appreciate the way you write on african underdevelopment. I remember once, you have been in Mozambique. But thats another story.
I'd like to comment on Sachs ideias. We also have millenium villages in Mozambique. Actually there is only one, in the southern mozambique. But sachs ideias are to increase to a number on 11!
Our short experience on these Millenium Villages is that they are to be unsustainable in a long term perspective. The way sachs thinks to pull us out of poverty is unsustainable as well. Although I recognise that the core thesis of sachs is that there should be more initial financial and infrastructural investiment on poor people, Im doughtfull wether this should also be done to the governments!
There are a lot of examples of villages in Mozambique which have been under certain NGO "administration". During those days, people were really happy and healthy. But when the project ended...everybody begun insulting the government, accusing it of chasing good people! Otherwise WE TURN POOR COUNTRIES IN MILLENIUNM COUNTRIES!
Have a nice day Mr Rodrik.

Ktwdawg

I can see a few concepts being proven here. The data show that this specific application of financial aid can improve a wide range of metrics on social welfare. It also disproves the notion that this type of aid is viable for global application.
So, how do we reproduce the first result in spite of the second, and on a global scale? There are a few possible choices I can see from my distant view of development economics, including the dedication to consolidate global foreign aid under a single program. To put all our eggs in one basket. The problem with that is deciding which basket is the best. The other option is more of a tangent which could be developed into a solution: the use of micro-loans, organized through a central global aid administration to provide information and direct investments. I understand that this is already being done somewhere on a private site.
In any case, I don't think that this experiment was useless or even disappointing- it seems a crucial piece in the development puzzle.

Egidio Vaz

"In any case, I don't think that this experiment was useless or even disappointing- it seems a crucial piece in the development puzzle."
-The problem, then, is that these programmes are time-consuming and very expensive. Their outcomes are, oftem, disapointing and in the long run, they demoralize others.
Id rather agree with your previous point:"he use of micro-loans, organized through a central global aid administration to provide information and direct investments".
If there is something we need to change rapidly...
Sachs ideias should change now and recall that they're not new.

Peter

Here's what I don't get about the Millennium Village concept. We know that human capital investments (health, education) are highly productive on average, almost bankable -- but they take many years, sometimes even a generation or more, to reach their full effect. One very important issue concerns personal incentives for investment and skill development. Improving health prospects (reducing the devastating random impact of adverse health events) can increase perceived returns and contribute to a generally stronger sense of agency. But this depends on an expectations horizon measured in decades, not a few years of donor frenzy.

Isn't this obvious? Doesn't the invest-in-people approach, which is correct, require long run sustainability?

Egídio Vaz

Yes, it requires but I cant see this objective in Sachs programmes. Millenium Villages are close to their end. They may take a decade or less. But, let us agree, these are just examples of what many of poor are requiring. So, I cant see any novelty in hisideas.
You know, poors know what they need quite well.What´s happening in Millenium Villages is waht really should be taking place everywhere in poss countries. I see no joke in creating ghettoes within communties.

Ktwdawg

"The problem, then, is that these programmes are time-consuming and very expensive. Their outcomes are, oftem, disapointing and in the long run, they demoralize others."
I understand your point of view and cannot then argue with any of your points. It is always difficult to quench the guilt and regret that accompany a circumscribed social experiment. Even if it works perfectly for the selected community and proves well the thesis of the economist, the experiment is still limited to that one community, and there is frustration for the surrounding region. Because you live there and witness the everyday effects, these feelings are magnified ten-fold to fill your field of vision.
From the outside, however, and in the larger context, there are benefits to the experiment- as there always are, failed or not. What we should take away is what I mentioned earlier- that the premise of the Mil.Vil's is accurate and works- but also, as pete noted, the scale of the experiment nor its base infrastructure are adequate to the task as a universal. We must then look to the next step of expanding the programs and finding viable funding for extended periods. The time-horizon is a very important function. I still think the idyllic formula would be to centralize world-aid donations, state, private, and corporate, and to direct those resources in a manner proven to gain results.

bob

I find the comments useful in that they higlight one of the major problems in development - sustainability of projects (As picked up by most responses here).

I find the point on withcraft influencing elections absolutely pointless.

Also the conclusion - Sachs et al has a lot to learn about Africa - again says nothing to me.

Sachs is an easy target. But he has played an important role in creating deabte about what level of aid should be given. I like most economists think the focus should be on the long-term effectiveness of aid rather than the level. However, when you have worked out in Africa for any length of time you realise how difficult this all is and become willing to support any positive contribution to the status quo. This may not lead to a rigorous policy approach - but as Keynes said in the long run we are all dead and believe while we wait for policy with the appropriate rigour etc. in the field a lot of people end up dead

VanStokkom

p.s.

more reading available on development assistance through brand new discussion papers from the Dutch Ministry of Development assistance:

http://vanstokkom.blogspot.com/2007/06/rich-menu-for-poor.html

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windblower

I'm following quite closely (through the internet)what's going on at these MV projects - it's certainly interesting, but here are a couple of things I've observed;
1.In spite of the lofty ambitions of MPGs to halve extreme poverty by 2015, this is an open-ended village model out of necessity - because the authors don't really know what its going to take to make these villages self-sustaining. Sachs ha s already admitted that 5 years is not sufficient, what about 10 years, or 20 years? Do we just go on and on? I suspect not and the model should be adapted to reflect more practical and targeted self-sustainable models.
2. As far as I can tell, there are no financial accounts (audited or unaudited) published on any of the websites, meaning we don't really know what are the real costs. Until we know these, it is impossible to set any thoughts on costs against the ambitions of budgeting $120 per capita per year for the beneficiaries. We are not even told whether this is direct cash or in-kind contributions, meaning salaries and pen-pushing activities of government or UN employees. And what about highly paid consultants, are they part of the $120?
3. What all of this tells me is that there is a great lack of transparency going on. Sure, there are some very useful reports available but nothing that ties the debate together on this poverty experiment - how long it needs to last in order to achieve its objectives and how much it’s going to cost.
4. Goal 8 of the millennium goals is to develop global partnerships for development - based on the lack of transparency so far I see very little that would encourage global partnerships.

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