More Aid, More Democracy

By Yang, David W. | The Christian Science Monitor, March 21, 2002 | Go to article overview
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More Aid, More Democracy

Yang, David W., The Christian Science Monitor

In highlighting the need for political reform in developing countries, President Bush's call for a "new compact for global development" will deepen the discourse at this week's UN summit in Monterrey, Mexico.

Most of the debate leading up to Monterrey focused on how to raise more money, setting off a somewhat myopic bidding war among donors. The problem is not largesse, though more funds are certainly needed to achieve the UN's ambitious goal of halving global poverty by 2015. Rather, the weakness lies in the donors' failure to link development to democracy.

Indeed, the record of aid shows that only democratic rule can provide long-term support to economic development in an era of globalization. That is why Bush's appeal last week for developing countries to "walk the hard road of political, legal, and economic reform" is so important to the debate on development aid.

In fact, the entire draft Monterrey Consensus is based on the relationship between political and economic development. At the summit's close, world leaders will make a commitment "to promoting national and global economic systems based on the principles of justice, equity, democracy, participation, transparency, accountability, and inclusion."

However, to implement this rhetoric, world leaders will need to strengthen each of the six instruments of development finance that form the Monterrey agenda - domestic capital, foreign investment, trade, official development assistance, debt relief, and the international financial architecture.

They can do so precisely by advancing democracy at both the national and global levels.

First, while a democracy cannot ensure that economic policies will always be sound, it can provide a more productive environment for the saving and investment of domestic capital. It can do so because the democratic values of equality, transparency, and accountability translate in the economic sphere to clearly defined property and labor rights, free but well-regulated exchanges in the marketplace, just settlement of contract disputes, and fair taxation.

Second, the presence of these institutions attracts foreign investment. Whether foreign investors risk their capital in emerging markets greatly depends on the stability of local financial and legal systems. A foreign investor has a better chance of finding transparent banks, effective market regulation, and independent judges in a democracy.

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