Facing Social Revolution: The Personal Journey of a Quaker Economist

By Jack Powelson; Jim Corbett et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
My Confession

My professional life was in turmoil in 1973. For twenty-five years, it had been divided between university teaching on the one hand and consulting and lecturing in the Third World on the other. In that year, I decided that much of what I was teaching, saying, and doing was wrong.

This insight did not come upon me suddenly. I had begun to suspect it years before I took action. But one day something snapped. I was sitting in the office of the Minister of Finance of Kenya.

I had been sent to Kenya by the Ford Foundation to help write the five-year economic plan. The Foundation had insisted - and I had eagerly agreed - that I would work for the Kenyans. They were my bosses, and I would be the faithful employee. I sat in on meetings between high government officials and corporate officers of multinationals. There I became convinced that the government officials, not the multinationals, were in charge. I examined agricultural plans and road-building plans; I helped decide how much to ask from the World Bank and how the proceeds would be spent. I argued for more aid to small farmers and less for a modern highway system, and I lost. I argued for family planning and listened to the guffaws of Ministry experts who joked about how they would not sell condoms without giving demonstrations.

The breaking point came on the interest rate. I was asked to write the five-year-plan chapter on fiscal and

-1-

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