The Economist (25 June, 2005)

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Or that was the idea. If that has not filled the gap, what will? The Bank's thinking has now moved on. Were Africa able to attract this money back, its private capital stock would increase by about two-thirds. Size can matter in development. Some schemes to save mankind work on a grand scale, or not at all. The fight against riverblindness had to wipe out blackfly larvae across great swathes of west Africa, lest treated watercourses suffer a reinvasion of flies from elsewhere.

To be effective, the drugs it distributes must be taken by two-thirds of a village for up to 20 years. But what is true of a particular aid effort need not be true for the entire continent. Unless Africa is trapped as Mr Sachs supposes, one need not feel bound by the precise sums he recommends. There need not be a specific quantity of aid below which it will do little and above which it will make all the difference.

Which is not to say such sums are wildly generous. But though a fraction of G8 income, these sums are huge relative to the size of the African economies they would help. About a dozen African countries already depend on aid for a fifth or more of their national income. In the mids, Mozambique relied on it for more than half. Raghuram Rajan and Arvind Subramanian of the International Monetary Fund worry that pushing too much aid into these countries too fast might bid up their real exchange rates, undermining the competitiveness of their export industries.

They find some evidence that large aid flows retard the growth of manufacturing sectors, such as textiles and apparel—the vanguard of the industrial revolution in many countries, from Britain to Vietnam. But most of all, aid sceptics worry that aid is too easily converted into spoils at all levels of African society. Not surprisingly, donors are often tempted to bypass governments altogether, importing their own teams. This approach can yield results in the short run. It is also often the only option in countries riddled with corruption. But it can also cannibalise the state institutions on which any country must ultimately depend.

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A state without responsibilities will never be a responsible state. Even if Africa's governments had the best will in the world, could they use such big sums of money? Donor money helped Malawi's primary schools scrap their fees in the early s. But over a longer time-span, these constraints argue for spending more: why not train the teachers, as well as paying the fees?

By , for example, Malawi had more than 27, extra teachers. The World Bank estimates that a country such as Niger needs to train about 8, teachers a year from now until to meet its needs. It currently trains just a tenth of that number. Many of the gravest threats to public health, for example, can be fought without hospitals, highly trained clinicians or expensive medical equipment. Besides, well-shod, well-trained doctors tend to disappear overseas. A third of Ethiopia's doctors left the country between and , according to the World Bank. Top of the list of quick wins are mosquito bednets, impregnated with insecticide.

The appeal is obvious and immediate. Sadly, this impulsive generosity will not be instantly gratified. Nets cost more to distribute than to make. Misguided policies can make matters worse. Demand for the insecticide, with which many Africans are unfamiliar, cannot be taken for granted less than a fifth of nets are retreated regularly nor can demand for the nets themselves.

Beneath the froth

The Monitor , a Ugandan newspaper, reports that a government official last month warned villagers not to turn their nets into wedding gowns. So where are Ms Stone's nets now?

OECD Statistics

In fact, the Tanzanian government has a sensible policy of not giving bednets away. To do so might crowd out the commercial sellers of bednets, who distribute them more efficiently than the public sector—and can be relied on to keep selling them, provided they can make a profit, long after celebrity donors have lost interest.


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Instead, the government hands out vouchers to pregnant women at antenatal clinics, covering much of the cost of the nets in the market. The dilemmas of distributing bednets illustrate some general problems of aid. Donors muster resources, but they fail to align the incentives of the people providing them or benefiting from them.

The grand macro-solutions often neglect the nagging micro-foundations. The staff of rural schools and clinics, for example, have scant reason to do their job well.

Donors, Ms McPake points out, would rather subsidise drugs than pay salaries. Hence health workers make their own money by selling the drugs for themselves. It boasts , members in countries, all of them specialists in managing projects. So why do so many still go so wrong? Projects, says the PMI , have five distinct phases: initiation; planning; execution; control; and closure.

Problems arise most frequently when initiation gets separated from execution. It may also explain why good project managers make bad forecasts, particularly in the public sector, where after-the-event accountability to a project's paymaster, the taxpayer, is less rigorous. This may be pronounced with prestige projects such as Wembley Stadium where bidders are chasing glory almost as much as commercial gain.

The article's authors, led by Bent Flyvbjerg, a professor at Denmark's Aalborg University, claim that the forecasts on such projects are no more accurate now than they were 30 years ago. Greg Balestrero, the head of PMI , says that for years project management was largely ignored. But that is now changing. A recent PMI survey found that three out of four European companies employ project managers. When Compaq, a computer maker, was taken over by Hewlett-Packard in , it had some 1, on its payroll.

Sol Trujillo

Three years ago the board of Siemens launched a worldwide initiative to improve its project management. A key element of the scheme was the introduction of project managers to the company's sales teams to try and temper their more extravagant promises, a move that requires a careful balance between reining them in and killing the deal. Some companies have gone so far as to become more like project co-ordinators than producers of goods or services. Nike, for instance, does not make shoes any more; it manages footwear projects.

rioswigatrodis.gq For all these firms, project management has become an important competitive tool. Some of them call it a core competence. Good project management can certainly make a difference. But Mr Gros finds perverse encouragement in its recent record. If the Turkish economy could survive the political ill-treatment it received in the s, he says, then deep down it must be very robust indeed. Join them. Subscribe to The Economist today. Media Audio edition Economist Films Podcasts.

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