May 8, 2003 | Commentary on Foreign Aid and Development

Wasting Money is No Help to Poor Countries

An Open Letter to
The editor of the Financial Times
Regarding an April 29, 2003 article

Sir, In your article "Japan, US 'least helpful to poor nations'" (April 29), you published the result of a survey from the Center for Global Development that attempted to assess how much the rich care for the poor.

The US is considered the "least helpful" of the rich countries because, among other things, it is the country that provides least aid to the developing world.

I went to the CGD's website and noticed, unsurprisingly, that in that same index of "commitment to development" the US appears as the country that imposes the lowest barriers on trade to developing nations. I am puzzled. My notion of "help" is radically different to that of the CGD. Granted, if the rich countries' markets are closed, the poor will welcome aid. Who wouldn't? But the poor want markets, not money. They want markets because, first, this allows them to sell what they produce and, second, freer trade is the single policy that most effectively circumvents corrupt governments.

Perhaps throwing money at the problems of developing countries may be the easiest way for rich countries to feel good about themselves. But that is no help to the poor. So if the US is considered the "least helpful" rich country for not wasting money, even if its markets are the most open to the developing world, the Center for Global Development just made one proud American.

Originally published in The Financial Times on May 8, 2003.

-Ana Isabel Eiras is a Senior Policy Analyst for the Center for International Trade and Economics at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.

About the Author

Ana I. Eiras Senior Policy Analyst on International Economics
Center for Trade and Economics (CTE)