De Prijs van een Slecht Geweten – Arend Jan Boekestijn (2010)

Boekestijn, a historian and former liberal MP, is on a mission. He is specifically interested in the (potential) damage aid does to poor countries and he formulates a detailed list of policy recommendation, making this book a great attempt to really influence the debate and policy on a practical level. Which to a certain extent it probably did, since the thinking on of aid and development has over the last years significantly evolved towards a more rational approach.
The book (only in Dutch) is full of nice anecdotes and is well researched, although it would have benefited from better editing. But that might also be a sign of it’s times; big publisher weren’t keen on publishing it.
Boekestijn argues that there is no demonstrable link between aid and investments, where there should be. Aid has not lead to economic growth in poor countries; for a great part that is the result of a lack of knowledge – or acknowledgement – of the type of country aid is given to. So-called closed societies (almost always countries with an extractive economy) have at their core the issue of how to deal with violence: the elite shares power and money to prevent war and internal violence. Restricting the entrance to this elite is crucial for the system to survive. And aid has done nothing to fight this pejorative system, even worse, it has strengthened it, as it has supported elite financially and in doing so removing the need for this elite to be accountable to the population. With terrible consequences for the population. The author suggests that this is ‘the price we pay for a bad conscience’.