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The Consequences of a Weak Public Sector in Developing Countries


July 17, 2013

The Consequencing of Imposing Best Practices on African Countries

Doug Hadden, VP Products

Stephen Lewis, the former Ontario leader of the opposition and United Nations' special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa has a few things to say about the impact of World Bank and IMF interventions in Africa in the 1980s and 90s. Not particularly nice things at all in the following video about the importance of public finances in country growth. Lewis takes aim at Structural Adjustment Programs that provided conditions for loans. These, he suggested, made governments eliminate deficits, introduce user fees where such fees were never used before and imposed cash crops (rather than crops that fed local people.) Lewis believes that Africa is still suffering from the effects of these instruments. 

Lewis was the party leader for the social-democratic, left of centre New Democratic Party in Ontario. His tenure overlapped with his father, David Lewis, who was the federal NDP leader in Canada. The elder Lewis was instrumental in coming up with the slogan "corporate welfare bums" to describe government programs that benefited businesses. So, it is possible that Lewis' analysis is skewed by ideology. But, his observation that the press narrative that African countries are deserving of underdevelopment is incorrect is an important takeaway. Reform should be country-led otherwise all sorts of complex programs based on the "Washington consensus" are tried. It's the "best practices" problem, rather than a practical approach. It's telling Africans what to do without understanding the context.

And, dogma in development is not a good thing.

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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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