2008年12月3日 星期三

Clinton Global Initiative Asia

Six conclusions of CGI
1. CGI is a verb, not a noun (i.e. we need action)
2. Sustainability is only possible with profit
3. Mass participation is important
4. Inclusion matters
5. Private-public cooperation is crucial to development
6. The current financial crisis is no excuse for delayed action

Impressive people
1. Lee Kwan Yew has a distinctive insight about all the most urgent global problems -- overpopulation, the solution of which is to promote education for women and equal job opportunities

2. Bill Clinton's last speech with the two stories, first about a Cambodian child and second about a family which has only one child out of ten surviving the Tsunami, was incredibly touching

3. Jet Li obviously showed deep understanding about disaster relief, which supposedly is the conceptual basis of his One Foundation. His honest and candid style is certainly worthy of additional appreciation

... and many many others

How CGI works
A annual meeting that attempts to bring positive impact to the specified areas (e.g. climate change, healthcare, etc.) through sharing, discussion, interaction and commitment.

- what CGI is offering to members
a) a unique opportunity to socialize with many political, business and civil society leaders from different parts of the world
b) chance to listen to the viewpoints from the most important decision makers worldwide
c) continuous support in many different areas for members to realize their commitments

- what CGI is asking for from members
Commitments to make a contribution whose nature is new, specific and measurable, those who does not realize their commitment will have their membership terminated

2008年4月26日 星期六

Are we even asking the right questions now?

Food or fuel? The policy choice becomes agonising
Published: April 25 2008 19:31 Financial Times, last updated: April 25 2008 19:31

In 1959, after years of lobbying from Texas oil men, President Dwight Eisenhower imposed a quota on US crude oil imports. The idea of the world’s biggest oil importer putting up barriers to keep out foreign crude now seems ludicrous. With fuel shortages looming, the quotas were abandoned by Richard Nixon in spring 1973.
Yet the arguments marshalled in support of the quotas are all too familiar. Protecting the domestic industry was vital to national security, the oil men said: America needed to invest in production capacity in case foreign supplies were cut off.
Today, the US ethanol industry is running its campaign out of the same playbook: there is a lot of talk about energy security and producers are protected by a 54 cents a gallon import tariff. In the European Union, the focus is more on the supposed environmental impact, but the results are similar: the industry is also protected by a tariff and further import restrictions are being talked about in Brussels.
The combined crisis of food prices soaring as oil
reached almost $120 a barrel this week should be the decisive signal that those policies are no longer tenable.
Biofuels such as ethanol are not the only reason, or even the main reason, that food prices are rising. The International Monetary Fund thinks the use of crops such as corn for biofuels accounts for only about 20 per cent of the rise in prices over the past couple of years; other estimates suggest the effect is even smaller.
But it is clear we have moved into a new era, in which food prices and fuel prices are tied more closely than ever before. That realisation has led some environmental groups – among them those, such as Friends of the Earth, who were among biofuels’ biggest cheerleaders only a few years ago – to urge policymakers to stop the growth of biofuels.
Some politicians, with Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, in the vanguard, have responded to these concerns by
calling for a rethink of biofuels policy. Targets for the EU to meet 10 per cent of its fuel demand from biofuels by 2020 and for the US to have 36bn gallons of “renewable” fuels in its consumption by 2022 now look at risk.
Yet putting a brake on the expansion of biofuels is not an easy way out. At $120, the oil price has almost doubled in the past year. It is an extra problem that a fragile world economy really does not need, and abandoning biofuels would make it worse.
High oil prices are a sign that the balance of supply and demand is very tight. Policymakers can help curb demand: the new fuel economy standards for cars in the US will be a step in the right direction, although their effect is likely to be modest. Higher fuel taxes would be better: the call from John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, for the federal petrol tax to be suspended over the summer is entirely counterproductive.
Changing demand patterns takes time, however, and while the world gets used to a permanently higher level of energy prices, there is a need for additional supplies.
Biofuels last year contributed about 1.3 per cent of world oil supplies: a small proportion, but still more than Indonesia, one of the earliest members of Opec, the oil producers’ cartel. Over the next few years, their contribution as a share of the increase in oil supplies is expected to be much greater. If that contribution were lost, the supply-demand balance would be even tighter and the oil price even higher.
The effect of cutting biofuels production could be to make food inflation even worse: higher oil prices push up the prices of fertiliser and transport, some of the biggest components of agricultural costs.
It seems policymakers are damned if they do back biofuels, and damned if they do not.
The deus ex machina favoured by many politicians, especially in the US, is “second-generation” biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol, which can be produced from straw or other plant waste and so do not compete with food supplies.
The pious declarations of support for cellulosic ethanol amount to pure wishful thinking, however: it is nowhere in large-scale production. There is a lot of corporate and government-supported research and development under way, but even supporters of cellulosic ethanol reckon commercial viability could be five years off. Cynics say it always will be.
There is a solution, however: the US and Europe can open their markets to more Brazilian ethanol made from sugar cane. Brazil has the potential for huge growth in ethanol production on land today used as pasture, where the impact of expansion on either food supply or deforestation would be small.
Brazilian ethanol is not the whole answer, but it can help, and other low and middle-income countries could with the right support also develop biofuels industries in ways that need not necessarily compete with food supplies.
Having opened the floodgates to foreign oil, Nixon had a change of heart after the Arab oil embargo. By the end of 1973, he was evoking the spirit of the moon landings and the Manhattan Project as he called for the US to make itself self-sufficient in energy by the end of the decade.
That bold initiative failed, of course; as all attempts at energy independence are doomed. If there is one good thing that can come out of the food and fuel crisis, it should be the recognition of that reality.

Apart from the Olympics debate, the food and oil crisis is definitely one of the more heated topics on the western newspaper lately. The problem here being, has the surge in food prices been caused by the use of biofuel? The logic here is that because more farmland is used to grow biofuel-making crops, less is used to grow food crops. Some insisted it has been so, while others say yes but the use of biofuel is not the main factor. Those who are crying out 'NO' usually go with an alternative answer that the soaring oil price is the culprit because it increases the costs of transportaion and fertilizers, which are both significant part of food costs.

There is no settlement by now on which side is correct. And probably such a settlement will never come. Nonetheless, there are some questions that are left almost completely undiscussed, at least not in the media or public, about the food, energy and perhaps also environmental crisis that we are facing here.

1) Is biofuel beneficial for the environment to make it worth the fuss?

Some facts:
  • Some biofuel-making crops were grown on land that was originally rainforest, which is carbon-reducing.
  • Some biofuel was produced by using coal-fuelled plants, which are very carbon-enhancing.
  • The use of biofuel apparently has enhanced the overall global energy supply, which helped keep the oil price down and its consumption up.

2) How are those in the developed countries responding to the negative impact of use of energy on the environment?

Some facts:
  • Norway has recently struck a deal with an African country that more trees would be planted on the African country whenever Norway consumes too much energy -- similar to the process Clean Development Mechandism.
  • US Presidential candidate John McCain talked about cutting taxes on petrol in US during the summer, which will definitely drive up oil consumption if enforced.

3) How are those in the developed countries responding to the food crisis, which has been killing a lot of people in the developing countries?

Some facts:
  • the US is still heavily subsidizing their farmers, which has essentially pushed up food prices
  • of course, people are still wasting a whole lot of food in the developed countries
  • most developed countries are not meeting the even half of their aid target, not to say match the currently increasing food price with an increase in aid

Ya, so those in the developed countries, like everybody else on the earth, are facing food, energy and perhaps also environmental crisis here. But let's not cut on our own consumption of food and energy, let's do the following,

  1. Transfer the carbon burden to the developing countries because the richer guys can buy out the poorer guys, which of course including buying out their environment
  2. Keep producing biofuels because the developed countries neither want to cut energy consumption nor do they want to invest heavily in real clean and renewable energy
  3. Keep unfreeing our gluttony because the developed countries cannot physically afford not to consume so much food and can financially afford the food anyway
  4. Protect corporate farmers from international competition through tariff or subsidies or both and push the food prices further, nevermind, who in the developed countries actually cannot afford the food? (indeed, some really cannot afford, but they are not counted while we are talking about the developed countries)

My rough guess: our problem now is with our mentality, we, in the developed countries, do not think at all we are consuming too much of food or energy.

2008年2月24日 星期日

Time to compare apple with orange

Perhaps since the success of the Gates foundation, there has been a lot of voices to call for running a non-profit organization (NPO) like a for-profit one. The rationale behind is that NPOs are usually unaccountable to their financial supporters (i.e. donators) and may well waste a lot of money, a situation that is much better controlled, though not completely avoided, in for-profit organizations (FPO). Yet the synchronization of operation styles between the two may prove difficult because of one crucial difference between them -- the availability of a ultimate performance indicator (UPI).

What is the UPI for a FPO? Without doubt it is the profit they make for their investors. But for a NPO, the answer is much less clear. All we know is that it is not for profit, we do not really know what are they collectively for. The most sensibly answer will be to save the lives of those on the verge of dying and raise the quality of life for those not dying soon but still in need. Unfortunately, such a UPI is neither unique nor measurable.

And it is no good news. A unique and measurable UPI allows comparison of different organizations' performance on the same dimension: you can compare the performance of HSBC and Microsoft (although such a comparision may not be perfect all the time), but you cannot perform the same due diligence on Amnesty International and Oxfam. There is just no single dimension.

Economic theory tells us that when a company perform badly, the capital goes away to more efficient companies, balancing different companies' profit performance and reducing waste of capital. The same will not naturally happen in the non-profit sector. Hence, inefficient NPOs can survive for way longer than their counterparts in the for-profit sector because no one can easily catch their ineffieicncies by looking at their income statements or balance sheets.

A single, cross comparable UPI for NPOs will do great help to resource allocation since inefficient NPOs can be singled out and elminated. And niche NPOs which are making real impact will get more assess to donations, i.e. money does not only go to the big names.

To achieve this, an independent agency with sufficient authority and manpower can replace the role of profit indicator through assessing performance of every NPO, granting a rating/impact indicator to each of them and publishing report regularly on their performance. This is, however, not an easy task.

2007年11月13日 星期二

Kill Your Enemies, But Don't Hate Them

An Abduction of Idealism
By Christopher Caldwell
Published: November 9 2007 19:49 Last updated: November 9 2007 19:49

Having lost patience with western inaction over the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan, Eric Breteau, the 37-year-old adventure philanthropist, took matters into his own hands. His French charity, Zoe’s Ark, planned to remove hundreds of orphans of war from Sudan and place them with western families.
But what looked to credulous supporters like no-nonsense humanitarianism looks to Chadian authorities like child abduction. Two weeks ago, Mr Breteau and five accomplices were arrested bringing 103 children to a chartered Boeing 757 that had been flown to a remote airstrip in the middle of the night. Almost immediately, horrified parents and furious relatives began showing up to claim the children. The International Red Cross, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Unicef, the UN children’s fund, now estimate that 91 of the 103 children had been living with family and 85 were not from Sudan at all but from nearby villages in Chad.

Zoe’s Ark was not exactly a transparent operation. Documentary footage taken moments before the arrest showed staff wrapping two of the children with fake bandages to make them look like war wounded. The charity had sought supporters on adoption websites, collected cash contributions from them up-front and demanded secrecy. Mr Breteau and colleagues informed no one in Chad about the children’s final destination, telling the children’s guardians only that they would be schooled locally in French and the Koran. French authorities, who had warned Mr Breteau over the summer that his plans were possibly criminal, were caught by surprise.
What now happens to Mr Breteau and his colleagues? When does the justice system of a non-western country fall below a threshold of acceptable competence and impartiality and require that western governments intervene? Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has sent mixed signals. Last weekend, he travelled to Chad to secure the release of several French journalists, who had been documenting the Zoe’s Ark misadventure, and several Spanish stewardesses who had arrived in the chartered plane unawares. “France has confidence in the Chadian state and the Chadian judiciary,” he said then. (Other members of the flight crew were released on Friday.) But Mr Sarkozy later promised to “go to get those who remain, whatever they may have done”.
This was a mistake. The case is now a political football. Idriss Déby, the Chadian president, has alluded to organ-harvesting and paedophilia. Others have made the claim that the children were being brought to France to be converted from Islam to Christianity. But it is not clear that Europeans understand this case better than Chadians. It was Chad that contacted the UNHCR to sort out the status of the children. The death penalty does not come into play – the maximum penalty for the crimes of which Mr Breteau and others are accused is 20 years’ hard labour.
A key question involves the standing that “idealism” ought to have in a courtroom. In western public opinion and justice, it has a privileged place. Marie-Agnès Peleran, one of the journalists who travelled with Zoe’s Ark, calls Mr Breteau and his accomplices “idealists but not criminals”. But the two are not mutually exclusive, as any examination of Europe in the first half of the 20th century will show. “Idealistic” may describe less what the activists were giving than what they were getting – a sense of meaning; a sense of importance.
Not to mention a sense of freedom. Once a situation has been described as genocidal – as French and American journalists and politicians have described Darfur – are its opponents permitted to act with impunity anywhere in the world? For many years, American and European leaders have behaved as if upping the rhetorical ante and describing the Darfuri violence as a “genocide” was erring on the side of caution. It may be throwing caution to the wind. To declare a state of humanitarian emergency will be read by certain activists as declaring a suspension of the rule of law.
Rony Brauman, the former president of Doctors without Borders, told an interviewer: “When you set out as a rescuer in such conditions, you are bound to be a reckless one.” Mr Breteau and his colleagues’ certitude that they were right made the deceptions and the disguises and the slapdash documentation of the children’s provenance OK. “They talk about me as if I’m a criminal,” Mr Breteau told a French newspaper, “when I’m the only one who has tried to do anything for Darfur.”
Marc Garmirian, one of the journalists released last weekend, whose documentary footage is the source of much of what we know about Zoe’s Ark in Chad, asked Mr Breteau’s girlfriend, Emilie Lelouch: “What legitimacy do you have uprooting them [the children] like this?”
“What legitimacy do they have to assassinate a people?” Ms Lelouch replied, presumably referring to Sudanese authorities. “I don’t know. I don’t ask myself that question.”
Humanitarianism draws its legitimacy from its simplicity and selflessness. When one man’s anti-genocidal activism is another man’s kidnapping, the simplicity and selflessness are clearly gone, and what is being done has a large dose of something other than humanitarianism. Did a group of cocksure Europeans believe that their conception of justice trumped Africans’ conception of family? If so, they were engaged in an act of dehumanisation as dangerous as the one they thought they were fighting. No crime is more serious than the one that Zoe’s Ark defendants stand accused of. Only if French authorities understand its gravity should this case be decided anywhere else than in a courtroom in Chad.

Most philanthropists start their action because of sympathy into the people in need. However, this sympathy ought to be taken out while the philanthropic act is actually taking place because rationality is even more needed in the judgemental decisions in philanthropy.

One of the main differences between doing philanthropy and doing business is the ambiguity of the goal involved. In both practices, it is crucial to decide the three big questions, which are for whom, what and how, i.e. who are you going to serve (and of course, why), what are you going to provide them with and how are you going to do it best. In business, the question is relatively straight forward. All the answers depend on the bottom line, even though the background factors affecting the bottom line can be complicated. However, the same three questions in philanthropy are much harder to answer. For instance, how do you know who is actually in need? The Chadian children, in the French eye, may be in need of help, but not so much in their own parents' eyes. The same complications exist in the other two questions for philanthropy because the needs can be many and methods to settle the needs even more.

That is exactly why our sympathy have to be taken away while practising philanthropy. It is already hard enough to judge if somebody needs help and what kind of help he/she needs under bounded rationality. Putting emotion or passion in the equation makes things worse because emotional people are difficult to reason and deal with. This is exemplifed well by the common antipathy to criticizms of inefficient, ineffective or even wrong-headed philanthropic act.

Michael Corleone said in the Godfather,' don't hate your enemy, it affects your judgement'. Poverty, Climate Change, Lack of Human Right, Wars etc are all our enemies, but they are not to be hated, they are to be eliminated.

2007年9月20日 星期四

Philanthropy 2.0

Wealthy fail to find good charity advice
By John Willman in London
Published: September 19 2007 03:00 at the Financial Times

Bankers and financial advisers to the rich and super-rich are failing to give them good advice on how to give their money away, interviews with some of Europe's wealthiest philanthropists have revealed.
Most of the wealthy individuals and families were highly focused on their philanthropy and wanted to contribute towards a particular area or cause of interest to them.
But they complained that it was hard to find qualified independent advisers to help them plan their giving programmes and to select suitable charitable projects.
"More people would get involved if they knew how to do it," said one interviewed in the study carried out by Scorpio Partnership, a wealth management consultancy, for three organisations that promote effective philanthropy: New Philanthropy Capital of the UK, Wise from Switzerland and Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation.
The interviews revealed that many potential philanthropists had a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve and were willing to pay for advice and support. Yet most found their wealth management advisers were not meeting their needs.
One common problem was advice on starting out with philanthropy, where donors wanted guidance on how to structure their giving. Although most wanted to be anonymous, they also wanted feedback to measure the success of their giving.
The majority regarded themselves as strategic philanthropists, looking for "tangible outcomes to their philanthropic endeavours" and "quantitative metrics as a measure for success". Yet they found it hard to find independent bespoke advice to help them form their strategies and evaluate the results.
"Because I have made money does not mean I am good at giving it away," said one. "It is a completely different skill."
The findings were based on 34 interviews conducted in the UK, Switzerland and Germany with ultra-high net worth individuals and family offices set up to manage the wealth of families in the UK, Switzerland and Germany. Their wealth ranged from $90m (€65m, £45m) to $2.5bn and they gave away on average 5 per cent of their net worth each year.
The interviewees came from countries including the US, Gulf states and Asia as well as Europe. Around half were new philanthropists, while the rest were from wealthy families with traditions of philanthropy.
The study concludes that advisers need to build their knowledge on philanthropy to provide a better service. It also urges charities to change their marketing to attract results-oriented donors

Apparently there is a trend moving towards a more acountable, transparent and, in some cases, profitable, style of philanthropy. The world wealthiest man, Bill Gates, has established a perfect example through his Bill and Miranda Gates Foundation. Passing a development proposal at the foundation can be as difficult as that of a business plan at Microsoft. The evolutionary movement, while seemingly very sensible and has its advantages, also carries a potential risk.

The world has been talking about the advantages of such a movement for a while. In the past, anybody donating money cannot expect too much, apart from occasional snacks or certificates as a return. Knowing how the money is spent and if it is well spent is almost an impossibility. Imagine if you are an investor and you cannot even ask how your money is spent, you gotta feel very angry. Nonetheless, it has been how the philanthropy world has been working in the past.

Now accountability and transparency have gained much more emphasis. Sometimes philanthrapists themselves are even included in the management of the money. Through this fresh way of investment-style philanthropy, the money hard-earned by the donaters will be spent more efficiently. It is especially important when the lack of donations for the vast number of poor people in the world is obvious.

However, investment requires returns. While a large part of the world remains poor because there is lack of capital or expertise or information and bringing in these things can help eliminate poverty rather effectively, there is also a large part of the world which is geographically disadvantageous, frequently hit by diseases and plagued with inefficient and corrupt governments. For the latter cases, help is, of course, needed, but the invesment-style philanthropists may overlook these places where help is, in fact, most needed.

The Grameen Bank has given us hope that the poor, with better supplies of capital, information and expertise, etc, can thrive themselves. Nonetheless, we'd better be realistic and accept the fact some poor people, afterall, may not be able to develop their own businesses and be self-sustainable. Then it is up to our moral judgement to decide if we should continue to put food on their tables.

2007年3月25日 星期日

Development Scheme, Accounting Standards and the Iraq War

William Easterly, Professor in NYU, wrote in WSJ,

There is a sad law I have noticed in my economics career: the poorer the country, the poorer the economic analysis applied to it. Sub-Saharan Africa, which this month marks the 50th anniversary of its first nation to gain independence, Ghana, bears this out.There has been progress in many areas over the last 50 years -- ... yet the same poor economics on sale to Ghana in 1957 are still there today. Economists involved in Africa then and now undervalued free markets, instead coming up with one of the worst ideas ever: state direction by the states least able to direct.African governments are not the only ones that are bad, but they have ranked low for decades on most international comparisons of corruption, state failure, red tape, lawlessness and dictatorship. Nor is recognizing such bad government "racist"... Instead, corrupt and mismanaged governments ... reflect the unhappy way in which colonizers artificially created most nations, often combining antagonistic ethnicities. Anyway, the results of statist economics by bad states was a near-zero rise in GDP per capita for Ghana, and the same for the average African nation, over the last 50 years.Why was state intervention considered crucial in 1957? Africa was thought to be in a "poverty trap," since the poor could not save enough to finance investment necessary to growth. Free markets could not get you out of poverty. The response was state-led, aid-financed investment. Alas, these ideas had already failed the laugh test... The U.S. in 1776 was at the same level as Africa today, yet it escaped the poverty trap. The same was also true for the history of Western Europe, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Latin America. All of these escapes from poverty happened without a state-led, aid-financed "Big Push." In the ensuing 50 years, there have been plenty more examples of poor countries which grew rapidly without much aid -- China and India (who each receive around half a percent of income in foreign aid) being the most famous recent examples. Meanwhile, aid amounted to 14% of total income year in and year out in the average African country since independence. Despite these reality checks, blockbuster reports over the last two years by the U.N. Millennium Project (led by Jeffrey Sachs), Mr. Sachs again in his book "The End of Poverty," the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), the Tony Blair Commission for Africa, and the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) have all reached what the UNDP called "a consensus on development": Today Africa needs another Big Push. Do they really think nobody is paying attention?Africa's poverty trap is well covered in the media, since it features such economists as Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Bono and Brad Pitt. But even Bill Gates ... expressed indifference to Africa's stagnant GDP, since "you can't eat GDP." Mr. Gates apparently missed the economics class that listed the components of GDP, such as food. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have good economists who have criticized state intervention. Under the pressure of anti-market activists, alas, they have soft-pedaled these views lately in favor of ... U.N.-led Millennium Development Goals...The cowed IMF and the World Bank never mention the words "free market" in thousands of pages devoted to ending poverty. ... World Bank economists are so scared of offending anyone on Africa that they recite tautologies. The press release describing the findings of the 2006 World Bank report "Challenges of African Growth" announces: the "single most important reason" for Africa's "lagging position in eradicating poverty" ... is "Africa's slow and erratic growth." The next World Bank report may reveal that half a dozen beers has been identified as the single most important reason for a six-pack.Today Unctad (in its 2006 "Big Push" report) still offers to make possible government "infant-industry policies" for "small, fragmented economies" by setting up a regional market, presumably so Burkina Faso and Niger can help absorb the potential output of the Togolese automobile industry. Unctad lacks everything but chutzpah: All aid to Africa, it said, should be moved into a new U.N. Development Fund for Africa, to which Unctad helpfully offered its "in-house experience"... Unctad will thus permit the economics of Africa to at last "escape from ideological biases," so we can finally understand "why economic activity should not be left entirely to market forces." The free market is no overnight panacea; it is just the gradual engine that ends poverty. African entrepreneurs have shown what they are capable of. They have, for example, launched the world's fastest growing cell phone industry to replace the moribund state landlines. What a tragedy, therefore, that aid agencies have foisted the poorest economics in the world on the poorest people in the world for 50 years. The hopeful sign is that many independent Africans themselves are increasingly learning the economics of how to get rich, rather than of how to stay poor.

For years, economists have been focussing on (deriving and implementing) grand schemes, like what MIT Economist Banerjee recently terms, 'the Economic Machine'. Grand schemes are doubtless convenient and, if valid, easy to implement. Afterall, most of the countries in the world need advice for development. Professionally trained economists or development experts are not that many. If there is a panacea for development, every local government, despite their probable incompetence, can just adopt the universal solution and poverty can be eliminated in less than a decade. That is probably what a lot of economists have in minds. From Harrod-Domar Model, to Solow Model, to the more recent Endogenous Growth Model. Economists have said investments, savings, technological advance and education respectively were the panacea of the day. And here we are today, the poor countries are not less poor, if not poorer, than ever before.

Indeed, any of the panaceas above can help development. But as usual, devil is in the details --- investments can be wasteful, encouraging savings need trustworthy banks/financial institutions, technological advance is hard to achieve without basic infrastruture, and education policy needs a lot more scrutiny than simply putting in sufficient money. These policies not only need micro-foundation, they need micro-managament. You know that, if anything can go wrong, it will.

William Easterly, as I am now reading his book and know from it, probably will disagree with Jeffrey Sachs's view that rich countries should provide developing countries with aid continuously (in fact, William disagrees so much that he wrote a whole book about it). But one common thing I found in both of their books was they did notice the difference between developing countries were huge, while William emphasized on tailored-made solution based on markets and granting the right incentive, Jeffrey suggested development schemes should be adjusted to the geographical, economic, political, social and cultural differences across countries.

Nonetheless, an efficient, tailored-made solution can only be possible if economists/development experts really walk around countries and cooperate with local people. This, in a sense, is even more difficult than the quest for a panacea. As quoted from a former member of International Accounting Standard Board (IASB), a body responsible for setting accounting standards for both developed and developing countries,

'We seek the truth for a more efficient capital market. That is what the IASB is doing and not trying to be democratic......And what really is the contribution of developing countries? We know what is best and we can help the rest of the world with our standards...'

As demomstrated perfectly in the Iraq War, the 'we-know-what-is-best-for-you' (or arrogant in short) attitude really, really does no help. But it is almost always the case in international affairs involving countries from both the North and South. And poverty elimination/economic development, unfortuantely, is one of them.

2007年3月22日 星期四

Darwinism of Moral Values and Social Norms

A good point raised by Kester, my tutemate in Command and Transtion Economies, when we were talking about social constructivsm today.

Do moral values and social norms evolve to the best interest of the human race? Interesting question, Kester believed so, my initial thought is some yes and some no. Probably I will add opinion in more depth later.