Far from being the enemy, the global private sector is the one certain way that poverty can be made
Monday, January 23, 2006
If business was mentioned at all during last year’s vocal Make Poverty History campaign, it was in criticism of the pernicious power of shady multinationals over the livelihoods of the poor. Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development, thinks it’s time to defend business against the fury of the anti-globalisers and recognise that without a thriving private sector no country can free itself from poverty.
’The poor are the private sector,’ he says, just back from Ethiopia and Kenya. ’Those people I met in the village of Arba Minch, in Ethiopia, are part of a very small private sector. They are growing food and selling it; they’re weaving mats and taking them to the market to sell.’ Surveys of people in developing countries show that they believe self-employment, business and earning a wage offer them the best prospects of escaping poverty.
Benn says donors have to learn to think beyond the humanitarian crisis, when food hand-outs are vital, and put in place the building blocks of an expanding economy. Britain would like to see more countries follow the free-trade, high-growth model which has seen the Asian Tigers, China and India burst onto the global market place in the past 20 years. More than 400 million people have been lifted out of poverty in China in that time.