The 10 billion dollar question

What would Lawrence do with $10 billion dollars?

Deciding what to do with $10 billion is difficult.

The Wall Street Journal features eight of the world’s top philanthropists explaining what they would do to help the world with an extra $10 billion dollars. Their answers are a mixed bag – there’s a lot of unproven and some very old ideas and odd misconceptions, from carbon-capture toilets (really?) to AMCs, investing in education and climate change mitigation.

Mo Ibrahim (the only person in the article who is actually from a developing country) made one of the most interesting suggestions: bolster the statistical capacity of the continent.

Better data will support improved policy making by governments and interventions by donors. The data will enable them to identify needs, to make better use of existing resources and to assess results. In the case of donors this will finally lead to aid that is “smart”—for both donor nations’ taxpayers and recipient countries’ development needs.

The only other suggestion that I found worthwhile came from Judith Rodin of the Rockerfeller Foundation, who would dedicate part of the funding to

…..equipping groups and governments with talent, technology and training so cycles of growth continue after funding dissipates.

Both Ibrahim and Rodin see aid as an potential enabler for governments, rather than as an end in itself, which is uncommonly refreshing, as philanthropists are usually more interested in reaching people directly. It’s also harder to raise money for this sort of thing, as it doesn’t directly involve starving children. Let’s have a go:

This is Steve

This is Steve. Steve works in a statistics office, earning less than £90 a day. Steve works on assessing poverty indicators and informing policy makers of the appropriate data, but has no computer. His office is dangerously understaffed (one out of every two government statisticians is poached by development partners every year). Please, when you're deciding where to send your check this Christmas, think of Steve.

Sadly, in the business of aid, the long term needs are the least photogenic.

2 thoughts on “The 10 billion dollar question

  1. Ranil Dissanayake

    March 8, 2010 at 11:32am

    I am genuinely laughing out loud. That is a great caption.

    Btw – yay for Mo Ibrahim. As you know, this is what I do for a living, and I can assure you that even many people working for DPs do not appreciate how useful half-decent data is, at least not when we have to collect it from them.

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