Get Religion calls our attention to the remarks Bono made at the National Prayer Breakfast this past Thursday. While praising the U.S. and its churches for all they have done to address poverty and the AIDS crisis in Africa (which he described as a tsunami a month), he called upon the government to devote 1% of ita annual budget (amounting currently to $26 billion) to "the poorest people in the world."
Seems reasonable, no? A small price to pay, no? A drop in the bucket, no? He certainly meant it to be all these things--a tiny stretch for a nation that is already generous, a first step on the long road to dealing effectively with "the least of us" all over the world.
Of course, the devil, as they say, is in the details. Bono did speak of effective foreign assistance. I have it on pretty good authority that the money, by itself, very likely wont make a difference. So long as African governments are mired in corruption, too much of the aid will be stolen or wasted.
I suspect that Bono knows this, which is why he used the word "effective." But he was in the business of bearing prophetic witness, not making a real policy recommendation. Real policy might require addressing Africas political problems before its health and economic problems can be effectively addressed. Some might say that political health flows from economic health, that the economic comes first. But if the politicians are kleptocrats, there can be no economic growth and prosperity without changes at the top.
And of course, when were talking about the AIDS crisis, Bono also knows that government money cant necessarily be effectively spent, either by the government or by the various and sundry NGOs, as theyre currently configured. What to do?