Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bono sticks his nose into Canadian politics.

Canada: Someone tell Bono to just shut the hell up.

Irish rocker Bono says Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's inability to further increase foreign aid mystifies him, especially when he's facing an election in a country that clearly favors more foreign aid. ``I'm mystified, actually, by the man,'' the U2 lead singer said at a news conference Friday. ``I like him very much, personally. I just think that it's a huge opportunity that he's missing out on. This is important to the Canadian people. I think the prime minister will find out if he walks away from the opportunity'' to boost foreign aid ``he will hear about it in the election. I am absolutely sure of that.'' Bono was in Ottawa for a U2 concert but spent the day meeting with politicians.
Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun has had enough of Bono's whining.
"....Bono seems an updated version of Sir Bob. Admittedly, Paul Martin sought to exploit Bono's influence and popularity and now it has boomeranged. Still, Bono's reaction and election predictions are pretentious, even for a rock star. How dare he bitch about how Martin should spend money the government extorts from us taxpayers? While aid and investment (by the U.S.) rescued Europe after World War II, and aid (and local initiative) made Taiwan and South Korea economically powerful, foreign aid has been little short of catastrophic for Africa. At its worst (and most basic) foreign aid increases dependency and deters initiative, and breeds corruption. Africa is replete with regimes that have used foreign aid to divert domestic money into weapons, repression, Swiss bank accounts. Foreign aid has helped entrench dictators and discouraged democratic evolution and self-reliance. Eritrea's President Isaias Afewerki recognized this when his country won independence from Ethiopia in 1993, after 32 years of war. He forbade unlimited foreign aid on grounds that it created disunity, provoked corruption and inhibited self-reliance. As one of Africa's poorest countries, Eritrea has tried to use foreign aid sensibly and responsibly, and is right to encourage self-sufficiency. If Bono wants to get involved in this Canadian election campaign, maybe he should examine how Canada's foreign aid over the years has been abused, misused, wasted -- despite some successes. It's not the 0.7% GDP commitment that is important, but where the aid is directed and dispersed. A case can be made that we should be helping countries that embody the values that we, as a people, reflect. Throwing money at Africa has mostly been worse than waste, and has hurt the very people we want to help. At one time, we defended giving aid to virtually every poor country in the world, no matter how tyrannical some rulers were. Classic do-good folly -- soft hearts, soft heads. We even forgave debts owed by Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Many Canadians (if not Bono himself) felt "crushed" by that lunatic gesture of Jean Chretien's, which even Martin wouldn't replicate. "
The goal of people like Bono and Geldof are admirable and something to strive for, but their methods and conclusions how to get there are a mix of stupid and ignorance that does more harm than good.. Worthington points out what papers like the Guardian and economist James Shikwati have said about foreign aid. All it does with most African countries is enable the conditions and leaders to do nothing. SPIEGAL:
"....SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty. Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor. SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox? Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid."
More on Africa and Aid money here, here, here, here, here, here

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