Dambisa Moyo

How much money is enough?…Outrageous and all out of proportion?

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Lehman Brothers Rockefeller centre
Lehman Brothers Rockefeller centre

A lot has been written about the dispersement and efficacy of aid given towards addressing situations of extreme poverty. Some argue for it from a pragmatic analysis, like Jeffrey Sachs in his book The End of Poverty. Some argue for more of it from an ethical perspective, like Peter Singer does in his book The Life You Can Save. Some argue for a radical review of the current situation from a critical process of inquiry, like Dambisa Moyo in her book Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa.

Either way you look at it, and you ought to look at it and have an opinion about this issue, a lot of money has been spent, and a lot of money will be spent in the future yet to come. Jeffrey Sachs provides a good overview of how little people live on ‘per day’ if such a calculation was to be defined, with this percentage of the Earth’s population defined as “The Bottom Billion”, because they exist on a bottom rung of income of slightly more than US$1 per day. This line of the economic pyramid, is also defined as people who live at The Bottom of The Pyramid, otherwise referred to as “living below the line”.

“Is more aid or money the answer to extreme poverty?” is reasonably and often among the first questions argued, explored or defended. That is an important question, but this post is not about that.

This post is about the distractions we have in our relatively safe and comfortable lives that take us away from addressing the ugliness of suffering that some people experience. It is reasonable to ask “should we care and is this our problem?” All the same, the power of the media is well documented for its ability to take and hold our attention. Often these issues where our attention is distracted to is very important: the global financial crisis, the failed negotiations in the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen last year, and more recently in Australia a hung parliament where the election held two weeks ago remains stalemated.

Last week I read more about a sexual harassment case that opened in Australia where a $37 million claim for damages was being contested. That is a lot of money, and before the case went to court an offer to settle was made of slightly less than $1 million which was rejected.

As a White Ribbon Foundation Ambassador this year campaigning for the end of violence against women, I take the issue of sexual harassment seriously. In this instance, I question the relative merits of the claim, and the precedence this might set for other claims of a similar nature.

Can we pursue the eradication of extreme poverty in our generation, and at the same time accommodate the values of greed that are so prevalent in our community?