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The Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business Paperback – January 10, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; Reprint edition (January 10, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871134691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871134691
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #447,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

A very good read, at time one wonders how it all can be true.
HenkUshuaia
If the world bank was to make democracy the condition of aid packages it would be more likely to reduce famines in these countries.
Tom Munro
A long litany of facts mostly correct, sometimes distorted to fit the picture, and nothing else.
eric

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 109 people found the following review helpful By Sithara Batcha on May 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Disclosure time- I work in the aid industry.

While I agree with much of what Hancock has to say (see below), this book is somewhat one-sided. Aid can reasonably claim a share in some positive world developments, such as rising life expectancy rates, decreased infant mortality, increase in primary education and literacy, growth in per capita GDP, and others. Undoubtedly, success has been patchy, and some areas, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, are worse off than they were fifty years ago, before the advent of the international aid industry. But in detailing its extensive failures, one should not completely ignore its successes (even if they maybe much less than what the aid industry claims).

With all that being said, I think a book of this sort is a must read for all aid workers, to bring us face to face with dark side of our work.

Here is a list of criticisms Hancock has about the international aid industry, and my own impressions.

1. International aid is a big bureaucracy more intent on keeping itself going than helping the poor.

My response- true- International aid is a huge bureaucracy. I spend my time writing and reading memos, and trying to get them 'cleared' as fast as possible. I literally spend no time with the poor.

2. International aid agencies spend money on big, wasteful projects that harm the poor and decimate indigenous societies.

My response: True depending on the development agency/country mission. Agencies (and agency sub-divisions, such as country missions) with lots of funds go this route. The ones that don't have such large accounts hire 'technical experts' instead.

3.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Carlo Matthews on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Hancock exposes the seedy underbelly of development/aid as few have dared in the past. Those who live off this industry or have vested interests in spouting an image of Western superiority will rightly feel threatened by a book that unmasks supposed philanthropy and disinterestedness as a shameless money-making and exploitative sham. Hancock is relentless in revealing not only the inefficacy of many major projects, but also the attached strings of big business as well as the morally bankrupt nature of many of its protagonits. In addition, Hancock tellingly explores the mentality and logic behind NGO's as little more than another way of making a buck at the expense of the poor. Where would an industry that depends on poverty for its survival be left if the poverty it tackled were to be eradicated? Some who find this study too close to home will claim it is condescending and lacking in solutions (as one reveiwer here does). It is neither. Hancock vents moral indignity in a fitting context and offers alternative approaches which in some cases obviate the necessity for development/aid agencies as we know them altogether ("God forbid!" some will cry). This book deserves to be read by all who sincerely wish to see a change in the way development/aid is carried out and in the appalling poverty it is supposed to alleviate. The career-minded need not apply.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Edward Bosnar on April 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
It's too bad that updated editions of "Lords of Poverty" were never published; indeed, even this edition was out of print for several years before this reprint edition. Hancock's writing style here may be a sustained rant, but it nevertheless provides a great deal of useful information and tears down many of the misconceptions most Americans or Europeans may have about the international aid industry. Particularly interesting is his criticism of the various UN agencies and, especially, the World Bank and the IMF - whose projects all too often do more harm than good (if they do any good at all). Perhaps the most disturbing aspect exposed in this book is still quite valid today: that taxpayers in the big donor countries like the U.S., Germany, Japan, the U.K. etc. are footing the bill for many disastrous projects worldwide that make the lives of impoverished populations even worse and often destroy in the environment in the process. "Lords of Poverty" may be dated, but it's still well worth the read.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 6, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book is getting a little dated now, but remains a classic critique of the international aid business. Using colourful anecdotes and solid stats, Graham Hancock convincingly demonstrates how the IMF, World Bank and other international aid/development agencies effectively worsen Third World poverty. What they do is transfer wealth from the poor to the rich in donor and recipient countries alike. In the 1st world, taxes of mainly not-particularly-rich people finance these international organizations, whose administrators often lead lives of incredible luxury. In the 3rd world, money from the organizations helps to sustain corrupt regimes and swell the bank accounts of their leaders, while in many cases the money eventually has to be repaid with interest by taxes which again tend to come mainly from the poor, thereby creating an extra burden for the people it was supposed in theory to help. Meanwhile the projects financed by the money are often wholly irrelevant to the needs of the recipient country, e.g. expressways in countries where only a rich minority own cars, and often the infrastructure is built by companies from the donor country (tied aid) and proceeds to fall to pieces long before the debt incurred has been paid off. This book caused a fair bit of controversy when first published, but was soon forgotten. It's been business as usual for the IMF etc ever since. Meanwhile Graham Hancock got so depressed with uncovering corruption in big aid agencies that he abandoned the field entirely and switched to writing all those speculative books about lost cities of the gods etc. -- yep, it's the very same Graham Hancock in case you're wondering.
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