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Date: 2024-07-24 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00002148

People ... Economists
William Easterly

PLACEHOLDER William Easterly, a New York University professor, former World Bank economist and author of the 2006 book, 'The White Man's Burden,'

COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess

To a degree, Mr. Gates's speech is an answer to critics of rich-country efforts to help the poor. One perennial critic is Mr. Easterly, the New York University professor, whose 2006 book, 'The White Man's Burden,' found little evidence of benefit from the $2.3 trillion given in foreign aid over the past five decades.

Mr. Gates said he hated the book. His feelings surfaced in January 2007 during a Davos panel discussion with Mr. Easterly, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and then-World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz. To a packed room of Davos attendees, Mr. Easterly noted that all the aid given to Africa over the years has failed to stimulate economic growth on the continent. Mr. Gates, his voice rising, snapped back that there are measures of success other than economic growth -- such as rising literacy rates or lives saved through smallpox vaccines. 'I don't promise that when a kid lives it will cause a GNP increase,' he quipped. 'I think life has value.'

Brushing off Mr. Gates's comments, Mr. Easterly responds, 'The vested interests in aid are so powerful they resist change and they ignore criticism. It is so good to try to help the poor but there is this feeling that [philanthropists] should be immune from criticism.'



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