Easterly, Freschi Chide World Bank Defense of Ethiopian Aid

    The final rally of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front in Addis Ababa for the May 2010 elections. A World Bank official was recently criticized for supporting tyrant rule in the African nation. Photo by: BBC World Service / CC BY 2.0 BBC World ServiceCC BY 2.0

    It is crucial for the World Bank and similar organizations to work in the long term to foster change in developing countries like Ethiopia, Ken Ohashi says in defense of World Bank aid to Ethiopia, which was recently criticized for supporting tyrant rule. Bill Easterly and Laura Freschi are unconvinced by the argument given by Ohashi, who serves as World Bank country director for Sudan and Ethiopia.

    The development experts, who run the “Aid Watch” blog, say that Ohashi’s use of the so-called gerund defense in his letter could not mask the realities of Meles Zenawi’s rule, which several critics have associated with political intimidation, unlawful killings, abuse and election fraud.

    In Ohashi’s letter to the editors of the New York Review of Books, he said the process of “building institutions” that uphold the right of a country’s citizens to effective public services requires a long time. The World Bank official also explains the bank’s belief in the innate tendency of countries to strive to better governance.

    Easterly and Freschi argues: “You can then use an all-powerful Gerund like ‘building institutions’ to suggest that you and the autocrat of Ethiopia are benevolently working together on that ‘innate tendency.’ The Gerund Defense implies that any horrible tyrant can be supported under the assumption that this tyrant is merely a temporary stage in a country ‘in transition to democracy,’ part of an ‘innate tendency’ towards ‘building institutions.’”

    Ohashi’s letter was in response to Helen Epstein’s article, which linked the chronic food shortages in Ethiopia to the country’s political system.

    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.