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Preface I can’t recall exactly when I began to have doubts about the value of development assistance. But I know that those doubts crystallized through contact with colleagues. Development workers, naturally enough, get to know and work with other development workers. Because we spend much of our working lives traveling, we end up still together after work is over, on planes, in jeeps, in restaurants, hotels, hostels, and huts. And over a beer we talk, not about our ideals but about the day-to-day business of development. We talk about raising money, plot strategies for getting grants and contracts, and compare notes about salaries and jobs. Sometimes we loosen up more and note some of the silliness we put up with, the compromises we are forced to make, the efforts we make to cover for others’ incompetence. And, of course, we gossip. In short, we are like others in any industry. In my naïveté I was not used to thinking of development assistance as an industry. I had for years genuinely believed that we could meaningfully help foster others’ development, and for me that meant we occupied a different realm of endeavor from commerce or government. The more I saw that we—the professionals and the organizations for which we work—behave as self-interestedly as any other industry or field and those in it, the more uncomfortable I became. My doubts became concrete a few years ago when some neighbors asked me for my “professional” opinion. They were starting to have considerable disposable income and wanted to contribute money to a good cause, preferably something that would help third world people. My neighbors traveled and, unlike most Americans I’d known, were interested in the third world and sensed how complex the world had become. They wanted to help, but they wanted their money to be used effectively and ef- ficiently. Whom would I recommend, they asked me; which organization did the best work in alleviating poverty? I could not give them the assurance they wanted. I knew of no organization that really accomplished much in the way of sustained alleviation of poverty. Still less, I knew of none that promoted what I had come to see as real development. Moreover, I was not aware of any organization which did exactly what it told the public it did or which used public moneys or charitable contributions really wisely. I hemmed and hawed. Finally I told them ix that I felt like a restaurant critic asked by good friends if he could get them in to see the kitchen of one of their favorite spots: “You don’t want to know what goes on in there,” I said, and left it at that. But it was my youngest son who pushed me to begin this book. At the time I was an officer of a medium-size foundation. When I wasn’t traveling, my time was spent in front of a computer screen writing reports and memos, manipulating budget numbers, trying, as I had come to realize, to sell something , not on behalf of the poor or necessarily in the interests of development but on behalf of the organization for which I worked. My son, then aged nine, began to drop by my office after school, a short walk away. He was at the stage where he was becoming conscious of his parents as people whose being did not revolve only around him, but who had lives, filled largely with work in the outside world. As children will, he had come to think, or more accurately to want to think, that what his father did was important. He knew that I went off to work wearing a tie and that I traveled ; he had heard that some people seemed to think highly of me and that I was trying to do something that was “good.” So after a few visits to the of- fice, it must have taken some courage for him to admit his frustration at the gap between what he had imagined and what it looked like I was doing. He would see me before the computer screen typing away or answering the telephone and talking in a voice that must have been unfamiliar. One day he asked me, “Dad, is this all you do?” Because this book is critical of development assistance, the reader might like to know whether my experience is sufficient to back up my case. It is. Over...


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MARC Record
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