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Thursday, 03 March 2011

When aid comes with strings attached, development unravels

Mali's cotton industry, destroyed by rich countries' subsidies, is the one chance it has to develop. So why are donors insisting on its privatisation? We know that the Malian cotton industry has been systematically undermined by rich countries (and India and China) driving down the international price by subsidising a relatively small number of relatively well-off cotton farmers. And we know that, as a consequence, millions of extremely poor Malians are even poorer. With less money in their pockets, the health and education of their families suffer. And we know that nothing is being done about it. While campaigns are ongoing, and Malian negotiators do their best at the WTO and in Washington and Brussels, the people I spoke to in Mali a couple of weeks ago were resigned to the political reality that little will change in the short- or medium-term. They were sick about it, but had given up being angry. Knowing all this, donors might reasonably be expected to adopt an attitude of humility verging on contrition. Rather than supporting development in Mali, donor countries have, in this instance, directly contributed to the destruction of probably the best chance Mali had to develop, the one industry that really had growth potential. Instead, the very donor governments that continue to undermine Mali's cotton industry are simultaneously telling Malians how to manage what is left of it. Ironically (dependency theorists would not see it as ironic), less money from cotton means more reliance on aid, which means more power for aid donors.

Source: Guardian