Have some self-respect
- Ivo Vegter
- 29 Jun 2010 04:49 (South Africa)
Marching upon the heavily fortified US consular compound opposite Sandton City in Johannesburg, the 5 000 protesters were incensed. Whipped up by the Treatment Action Campaign, the most prominent activist organisation on HIV/AIDS and other health-related issues, as well as the Congress of South African Trade Unions and Doctors Without Borders, the crowd had been told the world's biggest aid donor had reneged on its commitments.
"European governments and the USA are betraying their commitments to help fund HIV treatment in the world's poorest countries," quotes a Sapa report. "We will be marching to the US Consulate in Johannesburg to make United States President Barack Obama aware of the deaths that will result from his anti-treatment policies."
One might have thought such illustrious organisations would do a little research before inconveniencing others and making complete fools of themselves.
The fact is that the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, accounts for over 90% of all external funding for HIV treatment, care and prevention in South Africa. The fact is that Barack Obama has requested increases in the programmes budget for the next two years, and the 2011 request is the largest amount ever requested for the programme. The fact is that the number of people treated increased last year from about 1.6 million to nearly 2.5 million, and will continue to grow toward the program’s stated goal of more than 4 million under treatment.
So what are the protesters whining about?
They saw an item on e-TV which reported that the US was forsaking Pepfar in favour of the broader-based Global Health Initiative, and would cut Pepfar funding. The television station issued a retraction a few days later.
One might have thought organisations such as the TAC or Doctors Without Borders would have better information on which to base their campaigns than a single erroneous news report. So much for their credibility on AIDS-related matters.
One also might have thought these organisations would be grateful for the generous aid the United States continues to send to Africa, despite severe economic pressure back home, and act accordingly.
One might even have thought these organisations would look to the lack of leadership in South Africa's own government to find the proximate cause of the crisis proportions which the HIV/AIDS epidemic has assumed.
One probably would not expect that they'd stop to think that foreign aid, no matter its objective, inevitably perpetuates African poverty.
When there is a demand for something – be it food, healthcare, housing or chocolate bars – producers compete to supply this demand. Those that succeed, by delivering the best combination of quality, quantity and price, stand to profit. When foreign aid comes in to deliver these goods, however, it competes private producers out of the market (much like public subsidies do).
As a result, private capital goes elsewhere to look for a return on investment, and domestic capacity to produce the needed goods remains non-existent.
This means there will likely be a shortage again next year, and the year after that. Every year, aid will come in to "fill the gap", or "cover the shortfall", and by doing so, this aid guarantees that the shortfall will continue to exist, instead of being filled by domestic capital.
Take a famous example of a Canadian aid project in Lesotho. The aim was to strengthen domestic agriculture by helping farmers gain access to markets and develop modern farming methods. The farmers already had access to markets, however, and knew that their produce was uncompetitive as a result of Lesotho's poor agricultural conditions. In the end, the project succeeded only in developing roads that brought grain from South Africa into Lesotho and transported migrant labour back out. The few farmers that did exist were driven out of business. So much for developing domestic agriculture.
How much more harmful is the effect of aid in countries where greedy or power-hungry politicians embezzle aid money to fund wars or line their own pockets?
In some African countries, donor funding accounts for half the national budget. These countries have become entirely dependent on aid, and would collapse in a mire of war, disease, famine and death without the ongoing largesse of charitable foreigners. They're no better than children, dependent on the productivity of a parent for the means to live. Except it is worse, since unlike a child, they have no moral claim on donors, and do not eventually grow up and get a job.
Since 1950, the African continent has absorbed some $1 trillion in foreign aid. All of it was designed to alleviate poverty. Has it helped?
A detailed study of the subject by David Dollar, Craig Burnside and Paul Collier (2000), found that "aid has a positive impact on growth in developing countries with good fiscal, monetary, and trade policies but has little effect in the presence of poor policies."
Although not all interpretations agree, this really just says that poverty alleviation is not about aid, but about economic policy.
Five years ago, Nicky Oppenheimer, chairman of De Beers, gave a speech in London, in which he said: "Africa is much more than simply a handy metaphor for poverty and we do my continent a great injustice when we use it as such. Africa is much more than a palliative for those Western consciences pricked by sweeping generalisations of how much Africans need help."
Demanding aid is not only degrading, but it is actively destructive of domestic economies by diverting capital from where it is most needed and replacing it with a non-renewable resource: aid.
No, one does not expect the TAC, Cosatu and other NGOs to think this far. But one does expect basic civility. When, despite the economic reality of aid funding, generous contributions are offered to solve a specific crisis believed to have a particularly corrosive effect on Africa's productivity – namely HIV/AIDS – it is doubly disgraceful to bite the hand that feeds you.
I have a deep-seated belief in the capacity of people to take initiative, be productive, and build a prosperous future for themselves. I have seen this capacity at work all over the world, in both rich and poor countries. Therefore, it is sad to see half-wits at outfits like the TAC and Cosatu perpetuate the stereotype of Africans as helpless and pitiful beggars. First, they abjectly cry for help, and when it is offered, they demand ever more and denounce even the most generous donors on false grounds.
Ungrateful wretches! Have they no self-respect?
Next time, if you want to embarrass South Africa, just publish an advert in the Wall Street Journal:
Dear President Moneybags Obama,
In South Africa, we have TV, but they get the news wrong.
In South Africa, we're too lazy to double-check it.
In South Africa, we're gullible, stupid and we throw childish tantrums.
In South Africa, we cannot care for our own people.
In South Africa, only our self-loathing exceeds our greed.
In South Africa, we demand, we demand, we demand.
In South Africa, we despise our benefactors.
In South Africa, we're entitled to your money, because you're rich and we're not.
In South Africa, we blame everyone but ourselves.
In South Africa, we blame you, you callous murderer.
Ever your most abject and dependent servant,
PS. Thanks for the half billion dollars. Send more.
- Voting: there’s still time to change your mind
- Green tech is cool, but not because it’s green
- How Mmusi Maimane swindled a vote out of me
- The case to elect Malema to Parliament
- The intellectual gnome, Chomsky
- If Malema isn’t Pol Pot, is he still dangerous?
- Do Malema's followers understand ‘agrarian reform’?
- Look ma, I'm defending Shell's record in Nigeria!
- Any weather is evidence for global warming
- U-turn prof finds his fracking fears are avoidable
- Ramphele et al: The world according to angry feminists
- On HIV/Aids and scary-big numbers
- Cherry-picking ‘grey literature’ on rhino horn
- 350,000 reasons to kill a black rhino
- Eight myths about libertarians
- New Year’s resolutions for other people
- All I want for Christmas is a fire pool
- In defence of Donald Trump
- My old South African flag
- Fearful Fukushima fiction fatigue
- Do we tolerate private sector corruption?
- In defence of a lion killer
- Save the rare wine and endangered craft beer
- Forever blowing bubbles: shale gas economics
- Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill: When “certainty” means “wait and see”
- This land is my land: a revolution
- The launch of SA's Libertarian Party: herding cats in time for 2014
- The African case against the ICC
- The fossil fuel subsidy myth
- Think of the little fishies!
- The hilariously misunderstood libertarian
- The sickly history of sweeteners
- Pants on fire, but they’re not mine
- The obstructionism of shale gas activists
- How mind-numbing numbers whip up fear
- Why pick on Khanyi Dhlomo?
- Half-measures will fail the rhino
- Malema’s righteous anger... and naïve confusion
- Lottery licence to go to one lucky winner
- Vaccinations: when the state stabs the people
- Do reusable shopping bags kill people?
- The long walk to serfdom
- The Karoo desperately needs development
- The trials of Samson Shuttleworth
- The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest
- Raping the discourse about rape
- Who is the reasonable man?
- Fracking: Debating a big deal
- Who needs the Queen’s English?
- Electric cars: Taking from the poor to give to the rich
- Business Licensing Bill: An indefensible defence
- Red-tape tourism
- The Big Business Bribery Bill
- On Thatcher and society, Vavi and the market
- Extinction: Let’s make up numbers and panic!
- Feeding the world is getting easier
- Stop talking shit: Build your own toilet
- Climate change is pseudo-science
- Anti-competitive competition law
- The Department of Less Government
- An open letter to President Zuma
- In defence of Kim Kardashian
- The world’s weirdest wildlife sanctuary
- Boycott calls are simple-minded
- In defence of vegans
- The population explosion implodes
- Environmental backpedalling picks up pace
- How Mangaung can help and hinder entrepreneurs
- The elusive libertarian enclave
- The Gathering: Ivo Vegter
- The hidden overemployment crisis
- The case for constructive environmentalism
- Privatise the Western Cape's shacks
- Tenders: Not open to employees or their families
- Hurricanes fuel climate sensationalism
- Next: Gross-out warnings on food
- No new deal: The failure of Zumanomics
- Benoni has a bright idea
- Was I wrong about acid rain?
- Public food gardens: Where dumb ideas thrive
- Rethinking the costly food label madness
- Give hunting a chance
- Fracking gets green light, but here's the risk
- Socialists, bless 'em, visit Cape Town
- Buy a 1Time ticket now
- Give the ANC credit where credit is due
- The myth of the competent apartheid government
- It's a disaster that 'peak oil' is not a disaster
- No Gravy: a label for sustainable business
- This lightbulb's going to blow
- Smokers? Get 'em up against the wall!
- Inflating the obesity scare
- Bring a Shotgun to School Day
- GMOs: Hacking genes to feed the world
- The hidden dangers of charity
- Fracking: the unread paper debated
- Fracking: The “U-turn” paper nobody has read
- Eco-cronyism is as dangerous as any other
- SKA: Be grateful Karoo residents didn't object
- Energy: Get cracking on fracking
- Fair trade, unfair trade-off
- Casual labour is only bad for Vavi's unions
- 'Externalities', the catch-all justification for regulation
- 'Externalities', the catch-all justification for regulation
- How do we fix our dismal education?
- Barter: the rebirth of sound money
- Rights are not entitlements
- Debunking 'limits to growth' inanities
- Tax: Why align with "most other countries"?
- Newspaper sensationalism doesn't help rhinos
- Rolling Stone reprises Gasland's fracking fantasies
- Cosatu's manipulative march move
- Why do 16 million people not constitute an economy?
- The age of smear politics
- Does fracking cause earthquakes?
- The Chinese model is morbidly obese
- Green tech: doubling down on a losing bet
- Rape, pornography, and hell's grannies
- Petrol taxes won't hurt the poor
- Jailtime mooted for bad weather warnings
- Let's ban bans, and start with CITES
- In defence of overpaid sport stars
- On the death of Kim Jong-Il
- COP17: Let's ban fire
- Cancer gets you when nothing else can
- COP17: The 'party on' agenda
- COP17: The Blue Line of Death
- New seven natural inanities
- Occupiers' anger is all that makes sense
- The Luddites and Technocrats live on
- Malema marches for economic slavery
- Profitable purveyors of pudendal prettiness
- Sense? Us?
- If they want rhino horn, let's sell them some
- "Stimulate" economy by ending telco abuses
- Executive pay makes nobody poorer
- Malema's real persecution
- Mogoeng: Lock up your daughters
- Don't mandate insurance, deregulate healthcare
- I sympathise with Malema's persecution complex
- Short selling: panicked pols ban proof of failure
- Don't blame those who saw it coming
- What's obscene about profit?
- In defence of Bombela
- Dear president Zuma, you are not above the law
- The economics of love
- Treasure the Karoo? Ban the SKA!
- Malema is right, you know
- Gautrain's PPP: political patronage profiteering
- Kumi Naidoo is no hero
- LeadSA fails to lead when it matters
- No logo means carte blanche
- The drug war: dopey but dangerous
- A response to fracking critics
- Don't vote. It's your right.
- Welcome Walmart
- If you're happy and you know it clap your hands
- Buy local, support poverty
- Ubuntu, the free-market way
- Karoo fracking scandal exposed!
- I'm ashamed for my profession
- The bill of bunkum
- Being gay: a brand new concept!
- Who's afraid of the nuclear wolf?
- The nationalisation canard
- Ogilvy should grow a spine
- The new robber barons
- A classy revolution: Why we cared
- Bombastic Bombela balks
- Liberty is more than mere democracy
- Gautrain has a law unto itself
- The irony of 'services for all'
- How to hire a hitman in SA
- Arrive alive and neurotic
- The oppression of taxis
- Protection of Information Bill and why WikiLeaks is so dangerous
- Fifa, Russia and Qatar deserve each other
- One day, we'll all hate WikiLeaks
- The cycling mafia strikes again
- What Julius got for Christmas
- Let's return the beads
- Away with fascist seat belt laws
- Tintin Mbeki in the Sudan
- How the ANC can make everyone happy
- Currency: the race to the bottom.
- Hurrah for national healthcare!
- Give Zimbabweans citizenship
- Carte Blanche has no carte blanche
- That finger-licking, lip-smacking taste
- Bomb the barbaric lot already
- Green tax: another raid is coming
- Do strikers deserve anything?
- The media will lose this battle
- Global warmism needs a fisking
- A glass half-full
- Go ahead, have a baby
- Stop the handouts - end xenophobia
- The right to fire
- FIFA's heart of darkness
- Have some self-respect
- I ordered an orange skirt
- Secretly, Match blames South Africa
- The stupendous Gautrain: a rare marvel!
- The Fifa conquistadors are coming!
- What's wrong with everyone?
- Leave poor BP alone
- The destructive power of government
- The bonsai economy
- The darkness of Africa
- Who is ripping off whom?
- Anatomy of a whitewash
- While FIFA takes over, we fight
- The pointless pretence of Earth Hour
- Ten reasons to reject climate alarmism
- Really, boycott the FIFA farce
- The climate dominoes fall
- Lessons in ethics from Dick Cheney
- Screw the consumer
- In defence of bankers
- Break the banking cartel
- Julius Malema, the walking contradiction
- Boycott FIFA
- Climate clarity
- In defence of Boney M
- Pray Copenhagen fails
- Capitalism is not unkind
- Climate fraud kills people
- Pop goes the hot air balloon
- Peace, love and schadenfreude
- The irony of the left
- Too late to cool it?
- Going cold turkey