International Support: the two sides of poor countries assistance

Researcher at Ipea says that help from rich countries have their merits, since followed by an internal impulse of change


Amidst an impasse in the theme, the most affected countries are those that, besides poverty, are directly or indirectly involved in armed conflicts or extreme droughts affecting agricultural production

Nations with appalling housing conditions, lack of sanitation and disordered population growths are among those most likely to be struck by the so-called tropical diseases, as schistosomiasis and leishmaniasis. There is no doubt these countries, as South Sudan, need urgent international support. However, how far is this kind of aid positive?

Expert in social mobility, poverty and inequality, PhD in Sociology, Dr. Rafael Guerreiro Osório stresses there may be two sights on the theme: both those who believe it is impossible to overcome poverty without international help, and those who consider this intervention more damaging than helping development.

Regarding the negative aspects, Osório – also a researcher at the Applied Economic Research Institute (IPEA) – stresses the arguments of experts that support by rich countries can hamper the emergence of an internal impulse for social change. Those [who share this thought] consider international help more as a damage cause rather than help towards development. Whether for adverse economic effects – since when the assistance is too large in face of the countrys economy, it can cause or increase the Dutch disease [an effect that took place in the Netherlands in 1960, when an increase in gas prices attracted investments and strengthened exchange rates, reducing the competitiveness of manufactured goods], whether because, since owned by dominant elites, it creates a disinterest of these for the countrys human, institution and economic development, encouraging the establishment they benefit from. Still according to the researcher, under this thought, the change must come from inside, since international help is counterproductive and paternalist. When carrying the white people burden, international help can even difficult the rise of this struggle for social change, he says.

On the other hand, some believe it is impossible for the poorest countries to overcome poverty without external help, since these countries were constituted lately and joined an international order where they simply could not be competitive. This owes to reasons ranging from the geography to poverty circumstances themselves, as: not disposing of natural resources, having a territory with large areas subjected to droughts or other extreme climatic events; no access to the ocean; being surrounded by – or close to – nations under conflicts or also very poor; having unhealthy urban settlements in disordered expansion in recently deforested areas or struck by sudden urbanization processes, having large portions of the population without access to minimally structured education, health and other basic services, etc., remembers the sociologist.

However, he explains that anyone with some experience in the field, I think, would acknowledge the relevant evidence and arguments both in favor and against international aid that undoubtedly have their merits, but must be followed by internal impulses for change.

Amidst this impasse in the field, the most affected countries are those that, besides poverty, are directly or indirectly involved in armed conflicts or extreme droughts that severely affect agricultural production, according to Osório. It is hard, he says, trying to predict what will happen to these nations. Recent and not anticipated or considered improbable phenomena, as the Brexit and Trumps election, seem to be part of a wave that includes isolationist, xenophobic movements and a general reduction of resources of several orders that supported or stimulated development. But nothing prevents an eventual reaction to create, within a decade, a more favorable context for the development of poor nations, he ends.…