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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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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 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 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 23 December 2013
This item was delivered in good condition and within the agreed time frame - would recommend to others in the future. An interesting read
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on 24 February 2015
Great book, easy to read, and while it may repeat itself a little sometimes, it depicts a very clear image of the issues in today's world, and how it arrived to this point
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on 30 January 2015
An interesting and informative read, the evidence is enriched and enlivened by real life examples. It does not preach it informs.
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on 16 February 2016
Great product arrived as stated
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on 5 January 2017
gives you a bit of a insight into the aid business and how ineffective it actually is. Nothing majorly new, but still worth while read
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The title is, I think, somewhat misleading. The implication is that the author, a former aid worker, will be dishing the dirt on the aid industry, but this is not at all the thrust of the book, albeit that the duplication and waste of aid provided via charities is mentioned. What we get is an analysis of the different types of aid, and the advantages and disadvantages of various aid pathways - charity, national and international bodies like the IMF and World Bank. The importance of trade is also emphasised and the impact of globalisation and international trading arrangements on poor countries. The author does not indulge in the easy and simplistic anti-globalisation, anti-capitalist rhetoric of some campaigners.

The author employs a very useful fictitious average African country with a new leader trying to deliver improvements to the life of his people. The impossibility of the decisions facing many African governments is highlighted very clearly through this approach which sounds like it might be gimmicky but isn't.

At the end of the book, he reminds us that as consumers we have power to press corporations to behave better through our purchasing decisions. Up to a point I agree, but there are likely to be people in the West for whom ethical purchasing is just too expensive, and some corporate efforts have too much of the fig leaf approach. The book very clearly shows the distorting effect of subsidies, especially farm subsidies. In certain areas, such as US subsidies to cotton farmers, the approach beggars belief regardless of the impact on poor countries. It is ironic that the West complains about various countries in Asia dumping goods in the West or using currency manipulation and low labour costs to undercut Western producers. We hear less about the huge subsidies to Western agricultural producers that enable them to dump e.g. cotton in Africa at prices below local prices and only possible through huge subsidies. Tax payers around the globe should be enraged by this waste.

The book is a little out of date but has useful information about how to source information. The sad fact is that in Africa, although progress has been made, the Millennium Development Goals have not been achieved. Shamefully, most governments have not got close to the 0.7% of national income devoted to aid (the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and the UK.
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on 29 December 2015
Very interesting!
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