Teach a man to fish, lend him enough to buy a fishing pole

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Traditionally, economic development aid in the Third World has involved western banks lending massive sums of money to Third World governments for massive public works projects. That approach has been very effective at lining the Swiss bank accounts of despots and putting these countries deep into debt, but it hasn't been very effective at raising the standard of living.

The idea seemed to be: Western nations have dams and airports and factories and towering buildings and they are prosperous. If we build dams and airports and factories and towering buildings we will become prosperous, too. It's a classic case of post hoc, propter hoc reasoning, and it makes about as much sense as, say, seeing a vibrant downtown with a new arena and thinking that if we build a new arena our downtown will be vibrant, too.

It's come to be understood that there are factors in the wealth of nations which aren't as noticeable as factories or dams or arenas, but which are essential to prosperity. This social capital evolved over millenia in the West, but they haven't had as long to take root elsewhere.

One of these factors is a system of banking accessible to everyone -- the ability for someone to take out a small loan, at a reasonable rate of interest, to start a business. Think about it: Western economies didn't begin with people going down to the unemployment office looking for someone else to hire them. Individuals found something they could make or do which was valuable enough to exchange for food, clothing, or shelter.

It may not take much to get started in a small venture that could provide for one's family, but sometimes that "not much" is far more than one has hope of acquiring. It's a bootstrapping problem, and I appreciate anti-poverty organizations that focus on providing the "not much" to allow someone to get going on his own.

One such organization is FINCA International. FINCA works in 23 countries, mainly in Central America, central Africa, and the nations of the former Soviet Union. FINCA establishes village banking groups made up of 10 to 50 individuals who not only lend money to members, but also provide accountability and support. Small amounts of money can make a huge difference to these budding entrepreneurs:

FINCA borrowers receive working capital so that their efforts can become more productive. For instance, they can buy rice in bulk at wholesale prices, and resell at retail prices. They can buy a used refrigerator to keep produce fresh. They can purchase a sewing machine instead of stitching by hand. As village bankers become more productive, they increase their income and are able to accumulate savings for other investments and for emergencies.

This Saturday in the Blue Dome District, Tulsans have an opportunity to support FINCA's microfinance work and have some fun at the same time. It's the first One Village Festival and Pub Crawl. The festival runs from noon to 6 pm and will feature folk dance troupes, drum circles, a petting zoo, and poetry readings. The pub crawl starts at 9 pm, and a ticket ($10 advance, $13 at the event) will get you into seven Blue Dome District nightspots to hear live music -- e.g., Irish music at Arnie's, reggae at 1974, jazz at Tsunami Sushi, blues at McNellie's. The proceeds will go to establish a FINCA-sponsored bank in a village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire).

For contact info and more information about the event, click on the link for the One Village Festival.


mad okie Author Profile Page said:

"If we build dams and airports and factories and towering buildings we will become prosperous, too."

why does this sound like LaFortune's comments concerning the arena

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 22, 2005 12:53 AM.

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