Foreign Aid: A Case for Reform
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
This oft-repeated Chinese proverb would be easy to ridicule. Look, for example, at the decline in the world's fish-catch and the capital-intensive fishing methods that bring most of that catch to the already well fed rather than to the hungry. Or visit regions where people go hungry and see if they are near water swarming with fish, lacking only someone who can show them how to throw in a line. Still, the proverb is useful because it affirms the importance of self-reliance. Assistance should not make people depend permanently on handouts, but enable them to work their own way out of hunger and poverty.
Because the self-help approach to assistance is crucial, the fact needs emphasis that only a small part of new investment in poor countries comes from the rich nations. About 85 percent comes from their own savings. The remainder consists mainly of private foreign investment and of loans rather than grants. Food aid is no exception. Despite the public image India has of living off massive shipments of free food, during recent difficult years India imported 4 to 7 percent of its grain, and most of that was bought on the world market at commercial rates. Little went as a direct gift.
Generous help from the outside has, however, almost always been necessary for rapid growth. Although rapid growth does not