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



Jailed Swedes on the way to Ethiopian capital

The two Swedish journalists jailed in Ethiopia are headed for the capital Addis Ababa, according to recent reports from Sweden's Foreign Ministry.

The Swedish embassy has demanded to see the Swedes when they arrive to the city, which should happen Thursday evening.

Foreign minister Carl Bildt believes the first visit from the ambassador may have saved the Swedes’ lives.

“I think it’s thanks to the Swedish ambassador’s quick intervention that they’re still alive. The others in the group aren’t,” he said, referring to rebels from ONLF.

Bildt does not want to reveal what he or the Foreign Ministry are doing for the Swedes, as the situation is highly sensitive.

Every year Sweden gives large sums of financial aid to Ethiopia. This, however, is not likely to be used as leverage in order to get the arrested and injured Swedish journalists released.

Sweden has a “long history and strong commitment with the Ethiopian people,” said development aid minister Gunilla Carlsson to the TT news agency.

She was unwilling to speculate about whether Swedish aid would be of any significance in contact with Ethiopian authorities.

“I don’t think one can bargain with aid,” she said.

“Now we’re hoping that this will really get a good solution. We’re doing everything we can on location.”

Swedish aid to Ethiopia was roughly 280 million kronor ($44 million) in 2010, according to international development agency SIDA. In the past couple of years, this aid has chiefly gone in directions other than governmental.

The development agency writes on their web page that “the cooperation with Ethiopia has many aspects. Flexible humanitarian efforts are combined with long-term strategies in the fight against poverty. Now we’re focusing our efforts on democratic and economic development as well as education and health.”

SIDA notes that the political climate in Ethiopia has had an effect on their work in the country.

“The government’s lack of respect for democratic principles has led to the financial support being stopped.”

The Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson were arrested and injured in the closed border area Ogaden, on July 1st, when caught in a battle between Ethiopian government forces and the ONLF guerilla.

The journalists entered Ethiopia illegally together with the rebels, who are classed as terrorists by the regime. Following their arrest, the pair were taken to an arrest in the city Jijiga, where they were permitted to meet briefly with Swedish ambassador Jens Odlander.

Events after this are unclear. Both the Swedish Foreign Ministry and several media outlets have been given incorrect, unclear, conflicting or nonexistent information about the Swedes’ whereabouts, how long they can be held, or what they are accused of.

Since their arrest, Sweden has refrained from open criticism of Ethiopia. Considering the sensitive situation, critical comments are obviously considered to risk causing more damage than good.

On Thursday, however, the Foreign Ministry published their first report in three years on the human rights situation in 188 countries. The chapter on Ethiopia does not make for pretty reading.

“Over the past four years a deterioration of respect for human rights has occurred,” states the report.

Several journalist organisations are now joining the protests against the Swedes’ situation. The Swedish Union of Journalists (Svenska journalistförbundet – SJF) and Swedish Union of Photographers (Svenska Fotografers Förbund) are demanding their release.

“They were arrested while carrying out journalistic work, and ought therefore never to have been arrested or captured at all,” commented Jonas Nordling, SJF’s chairman, in a statement.

The International Federation of Journalists condemn the arrests “in the strongest possible terms” and demand that the Swedes be given access to healthcare.

The United States-based international journalist organisation CPJ, and Reporters without Borders (Reportrar utan gränser) have previously made similar demands.