Ideology is no basis for international development

Sweden's international development agency, SIDA, relies on left-wing ideology rather than facts and logic, argues Nima Sanandaji, from the Captus think tank.

”Gender inequality is one of the main reasons for poverty in a world where 99 percent of the world’s total wealth is owned by men and where 90 percent of the total incomes globally are earned by men.”

Where does the above quote come from? To begin with, it is of course as wrong as it can get. In a country such as the UK women own more wealth than men. And more than two percent of global wealth is owned by the British. So even in that one single country, women own more than one percent of the world’s total wealth. Are we to assume that women’s ownership in all other countries is negative?

The quote is of course nothing more than a modern myth spread among left-wing gender feminists. But where did this quote actually come from? Young radical social democrats in Skåne? Leftist college students in Örebro Campus? In fact, the quote is actually from the Swedish aid agency SIDA.

In a recently published report, Fredrik Segerfeldt at think-tank Timbro looks at policy documents published by SIDA. Segerfeldt concludes that the aid agency does not have a realistic world view, relying on ideology rather than facts and logic.

For example, SIDA concludes that the poor countries have had little gain from increased international trade and increases in global investments. The reality is however that economic development amongst the poor countries, based very much on the above factors and economic liberalization, has meant that the number of people living on less than a dollar a day has been reduced by some 500 million since 1981.

Furthermore, SIDA explicitly claims that they view poverty as a relative rather than absolute term. This basically socialist view of poverty implies that North Korea would be less poor than South Korea, as long as incomes were distributed equally among the inhabitants of North Korea. The fact that those living in North Korea would still be extremely poor in terms of material wellbeing compared to their southern neighbours has little relevance in this slanted perspective.

For many years aid organizations such as SIDA have continued to rely on socialist ideas and socialist ideology in order to analyze and attempt to solve poverty. This ideological bias is also evident in the organization’s information campaigns, on which it spends 180 million kronor annually to promote itself.

The reality of the world is that all countries which have achieved high living for their citizens have relied on free-market policies and private property. Socialist plan economies, based upon the idea that poverty is relative rather than absolute, have failed in all cases.

There are many reasons why aid policies have created dependence rather than development for more than half a century. Ideological bias amongst aid organizations may well play an important role in this.

Nima Sanandaji is president of the Swedish free market think tank Captus and publisher of Captus Magazine.

Eric Segerfeldts report can be found