It could not have come at a better time. Michael Gerson’s column in this morning’s Washington Post shoots down a new conservative argument against foreign aid from Zambian author Dambisa Moyo.
Gerson’s column comes as President Obama and lawmakers in Congress are making vital decisions about spending, in particular, how much U.S. money should to go international assistance in the fiscal year 2010 budget.
So as global health advocates worry that PEPFAR and other vital global health programs will be flat-funded, Gerson comes to the defense of these efforts.
“The broad American belief that foreign aid is stuffed down tropical rat holes has been recently reinforced by a young Zambian, Oxford-trained economist named Dambisa Moyo. Her book, “Dead Aid,” has launched her as a conservative celebrity, feted by Steve Forbes and embraced by the Cato Institute,” Gerson begins. “And the book is something of a marvel: Seldom have so many sound economic arguments been employed to justify such disastrously wrongheaded conclusions,” he writes.
We wish Gerson would have gone further in urging the Obama administration to fulfill the promises of PEPFAR’s reauthorization. But trumpeting PEPFAR’s success in this climate can’t hurt.
Here’s the crux of Gerson’s response: “Moyo does not take sufficient account of the broad reaction against this kind of direct aid beginning in the 1990s. The United States started taking a much more targeted and strategic approach. The Millennium Challenge Account directed new aid to nations willing to work as responsible partners, dedicated to reform and transparency. Initiatives on AIDS and malaria required and achieved measurable outcomes and have often worked through civil society instead of giving money directly to African governments.”
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