Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Review of the Munk Debate on international aid

Last night in Toronto a big debate over international aid was streamed on line. Dambisa Moyo and Paul Collier were amongst the experts debating whether aid has done more good or bad.

To review some of what happened last night we turn to the Toronto Star, writer Iain Marlow describes which participant drew the biggest applause.

Dambisa Moyo is possibly the only person who can get applause in Canada by saying, after listening to Stephen Lewis speak, "If you listen to what Stephen has said, it's littered with negatives."

It helps, of course, that Moyo is a celebrated African-born, Oxford- and Harvard-educated economist. She is also the author of Dead Aid, a book scathingly critical of current Western aid policies.

The multiple exchanges between Moyo and Canada's celebrated former UN special envoy for HIV-AIDS took place last night at the Munk Debate on Foreign Aid at the Royal Ontario Museum. About 800 packed the auditorium while 300 watched on big screens.

The debate also featured Hernando de Soto, a Peruvian thinker and development consultant, and Paul Collier, an Oxford professor and government adviser.

The debate topic was: "Whether aid has done more harm than good." Collier and Lewis said no; Moyo and de Soto said yes.

But it was really a two-person show between Lewis and Moyo, both extremely passionate and involved personally with the plight of Africa.

At one point, after a vigorous defence of Western foreign aid, Lewis pointed out that Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, bought Moyo's book for his entire cabinet.

"Did you autograph it?" Lewis asked her. She replied jokingly: "Of course, and they gave me aid money."

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