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on 7 July 2009
A readable account of the ins and outs of aid and trade in sub-saharan Africa by someone who has worked in the field but has now stepped aside to give a non-partisan view.The book looks at the efforts of Charities,Government and International Organisations in the aid field and how these efforts are dwarfed by the inequities of trade arrangements.The impact of aid and trade on people in Africa is highlighted with examples drawn from the author's on the ground experiences.The book asks what you would do if you were in power in an imaginary african state outlining the demands on your budget and the unreliability of your income sources.The book brings home the failure of the wealthy nations of the world to deliver on their promises and the need to keep the pressure on Governments to deliver for the poorest and the weakest.
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on 19 February 2010
But it gets a little repetitive towards the end of the book once the real meat of the issues have been tackled and the author sets about a "call to arms".
This book is as much about globalisation and international trade agreements, and how they effect developing countries, as it is about direct aid. As a result this book ties in very nicely with "Globalization and Its Discontents" by Joseph Stiglitz. Indeed many of the issues raised are similar if not identical. Most interestingly both authors have experience working from opposite ends of the aid/finance spectrum and yet come to the same conclusions.
All in all a friendly chatty style that moves along at a decent pace. A recommended read.
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on 3 August 2008
This is a compelling read enabling people outside of the fields of Aid and Development to challenge their own thinking about charity and where the feel-good money goes.

The book is written with a good balance of facts and figures interspersed with personal anecdotes that lighten the mood whilst still driving home the practicalities of living in Africa.

I believe this book was aimed at people like me, who have a slight, but apathetic concern about the effects of the mismanagement of globalisation, of domestic subsidies and who are happy to assuage the conscience with a donation to any charity that offers up suitable images of people in crisis believing that they have made a contribution.

Its easy to read, but not easy to forget.
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on 1 May 2008
I have never bothered to write an amazon review before, but have just finished reading this book and it's great, I thoroughly recommend it. It is amazingly readable, has some scary statistics about how we are wasting money every time we buy sugar with sensible, practical tips on small steps individuals can take to do something about it. I love the stories of the author's own experience in Africa. I love the way the facts are excellently researched and presented from a balanced point of view, and I have folded over at least 15 pages where there is something so interesting I want to be able to find it again to tell people.
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on 21 February 2016
With the title of this book, and the sensationalist subtitle “An insider reveals how good intentions have failed the world's poor”, I was certainly expecting a scathing critique of the entire aid industry. Something following the views of William Easterly or Dambisa Moyo, who criticize the entire set up and almost call for complete overhaul. In that regard I had also waited to read the book, as working in this area myself, I was not in the mood for another pessimist telling how it all of our work is useless.
To my positive surprise the sensationalist title is nothing like the book, which is well-balanced, well argued and consistent in the argumentation: there are enormous problems with development aid, free trade and globalization (because unlike many others, the author, former head of DFID in Rwanda, does understand that aid alone is not the only issue affecting African poverty), but he is correct when he says “In the right circumstances, it is unequivocally true that aid works”.
His analysis is then to state what these circumstances are where aid works, and here there is a clear and absolutely correct criticism of the work he did himself (and the work I am doing), of wrong modalities, lack of ownership, coordination, interests... For an uninitiated into the aid world, this is an excellent introduction to the problems that aid faces; for the initiated, it is an excellent reflection and summary of what we (should) know to be the problems.
But as mentioned, Mr. Bolton does not only talk about aid itself, but also brings up all the hipocrisies and contradiction of (not so free) trade and globalization. As with aid, he does not reject trade or globalization, but says that they have to be managed, in complementarity to aid, to achieve what is best for Africa (this is a caveat in the book, also not clear from the sensationalist title: it is not about the world's poor. It is about Africa's poor. So while some parts can be general to the world, the author, in the book itself, does not hide that he talks from the perspective of his experiences with Africa).
If I have any caveat with the book it is only that it is viewed purely from the development perspective of the West, and only very superficially treats a big dilemma in the development world, which is the commitment of a given government. Surely he mentions corruption and that it is easier to support “successful” countries that have the proper institutions and stability. This is certainly not always the case in many countries, and also accounts for much of the poverty in some African countries, and the waste and unaccountability of aid funds.
However, the book is a refreshing and thoughtful examination of working with development aid, and I would highly recommend it.
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on 16 September 2007
I found this book to be a well researched look at the impact of globalisation and its links with global poverty.It provides no easy answers and avoids simplistic conclusions such as that "all corporations are evil". I found it easy to read and informative, and it has greatly improved my understanding of the world econmy and its winners and losers. Most of all, it suggests it would be relatively easy to to change the balance, if enough people acted.
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on 19 August 2009
This book should be essential reading for anyone who wonders why Africa still needs loads of Aid, even after Bob Geldof and all the charity appeals there have ever been. Basically it comes down to our governments and their greedy, defensive ways and this book lays it out in easily understandable ways for you, the reader. The best thing is when he gets through to the end of the book he tells you what you can do to exercise your rights to try to influence your governement to do more for them. The standout sections for me were the ones on agricultural subsidies that i knew nothing about. It turns out that the UK governement subsidises farmers to grow stuff that doesnt suit our climate and then charges you and i more at the checkout to cover these subsidies!! That the US cotton industry gets subsidised for more than the cotton crop is actually WORTH make sobering reading for anyone.
These are just the tip of the iceberg though, as there are so many jaw-dropping facts and stories in this book you really should read it.
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on 10 June 2015
This is a brilliant book. Absolutely spot on. I recently completed an MBA in Humanitarian Development and needless to say churned through a lot of the current literature around these issues. Giles Bolton's book; Aid and Other Dirty Business was by far the best. To be honest, I learnt more from reading this book than I did in my entire MBA. I just wish someone had handed me this book sooner as I spent two years trying to get a grasp on these exact issues with mixed success. I hope for future students sake he considers teaching once his days in the field are up.
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on 29 November 2015
A little out of date but makes a very interesting analysis and interpretation of the difference that AID does and does not make in Africa. If you want to help, then this book will educate you as to where and how to do so most effectively in an easy to grasp and informed way.
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on 28 June 2014
I just couldn't get into this book, I simply never found myself absorbed by it and in the end gave up roughly half way through. My mind would constantly daydream off every time I tried to read it, which is generally a sign that it's not a book for me.
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