23 May 2011

Think Tanks Takeover Aid...

This was an idea which I have certainly never considered...
So what if, instead of attempting to pay for irrigation canals and nursing schools, some of that aid money instead went to pay for political think tanks?

That was the unlikely idea proposed to me recently by Rakesh Mohan, the renowned Indian economist, former central banker and economic reformer...

“Now that it’s 50 or 60 years since these countries won their independence, it’s high time they started to develop their own institutions of independent governance,” he told me. “Too many of their problems are caused by the short-term nature of the political system, and the lack of lasting knowledge. This is what leads to corruption.”

...Mr. Mohan is part of a group of economists who are backing an unorthodox international project called the Think Tank Initiative, in which Western government aid agencies pay for the creation and long-term operation of dozens of political and economic think tanks in the poorest countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America...

Financing a think tank is more radical than it seems: It implies paying for change, debate and risk rather than for stability and certainty. It may well end up helping political parties we find disagreeable, such as the Muslim Brotherhood – but it also increases the odds of those elected parties becoming more moderate and effective; isolating them does the opposite. Besides, we have learned what happens when we pay for stability at all costs. Well-informed dissent is good aid. It is time to let a thousand political arguments bloom.

I am going to jump into this debate next week, but I wanted to at least share parts of the article and get some conversation going in the comments section. What do you think?

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