Lords of Poverty

ISBN: 0871134691
ISBN 13: 9780871134691
By: Graham Hancock

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About this book

Lords of Poverty is a case study in betrayals of a public trust. The shortcomings of aid are numerous, and serious enough to raise questions about the viability of the practice at its most fundamental levels. Hancock’s report is thorough, deeply shocking, and certain to cause critical reevaluation—of the government’s motives in giving foreign aid, and of the true needs of our intended beneficiaries.

Reader's Thoughts

James Blatter

Too many anecdotes not enough evidence

Tony Cohen

Guess what...patronage runs rampant at the UN, and what should be helping people isn't really....I am very pro-UN but this book really shook me. Things shouldn't be this way, but the best of ideas must still be run by the meanest of people.


An excellent book. I can vouch for much of its contents, because I saw so much of the "culture" the book described.


The summary argument:"At $60 billion a year ... aid is already quite large enough to do harm. Indeed ... it is often profoundly dangerous to the poor and inimical to their interests: it has financed the creation of monstrous projects that, at vast, expense, have devastated the environment and ruined lives; it has supported and legitimised brutal tyrannies; it has facilitated the emergence of fantastical and Byzantine bureaucracies staffed by legions of self-serving hypocrites; it has sapped the initiative, creativity and enterprise of ordinary people and substituted the superficial and irrelevant glitz of imported advice; it has sucked potential entrepreneurs and intellectuals in the developing countries into non-productive administrative activities; it has created a 'moral tone' in international affairs that denies the hard task of wealth creation and that substitutes easy handouts for the rigours of self-help; in addition, throughout the Third World, it has allowed the dead grip of imposed officialdom to suppress popular choice and individual freedom"Other notes:I would also be interested in knowing the author's thoughts on how to redirect money from ODA into more effective humanitarian efforts (Oxfam is one of his favorite NGOs to exclude). In crisis, at a minimum, there is a need for this type of work. Additionally, an approach to weening now dependent governments from the aid spigot without setting the stage for conflict would be an interesting addition.

Steve Woods

What can anyone say about this book? After 15 years of living in SE Asia and watching the performance of these predators, stuffing their very being from the swill trough for little or no positive return-indeed on occasion if positively anything then it would be destruction, I felt I needed to get some facts. The anathema with which I regard these people began to look to me slightly hysterical. I began to wonder whether at least a goodly part of the problem was with my perception rather than their performance.Regrettably no! If anything my loathing of the entire system for delivery of aid, along with its institutions and the people within it has grown. All my worst stereotypical classification of the lot as self interested, self serving and incompetent at best through cynically exploitative to just plain evil at worst was confirmed in substance by the research and observations here.The figures and the examples may be slightly dated now but things have not changed. If anything they have gotten worse as the global Aid budget has ballooned as a result of that masterful piece of PR propaganda The Millennium Development Goals. The best image that comes to mind is Jabba the Hut from Star Wars. It is difficult to understand how absolute obscenity can become more than that but it has.I do not oppose Aid but the industry that bloats its own appetites from the proceeds using the suffering of the poor as justification and the sophistication of modern PR to hide the truth of its rapaciousness and the damage it does both individually and globally. Cut off the funds dissolve the World Bank and the IMF and demolish the UN, the argument that something is better than nothing just can't hold up after even the most cursory examination of the results.This book was so disturbing I could only read it a small slice at a time. The anger and despair it evoked in me was almost unbearbable at times. My inclination to have absolutely nothing to do with anyone who benefits from this the greatest fraud in history now feels absolute. They are for me agents of evil, simply beyond the pale without exception, naivete or delusion are not an excuse.


This book was recommended to me by a refugee who went through the "UNHCR resettlement scandal in Nairobi", circa 2000. It is so hard to read because it is depressing as hell. One semi-positive note is that there seems to have been some improvement since the the '90s. I think I'll finish this one after my early retirement to a bucolic village.


Really interesting book. I never gave much thought to the Aid industry before this book, but certainly have since reading it. My only complaints are that it offers no proposed solutions and it is also somewhat out-dated, in terms of statistics. A newer edition of the book would be incredibly valuable.


Besides needing updating.... The indictment of the international aid bureaucracy is a formidable one.... but when someone devotes that much passion to grinding an axe, I can not but wonder what he is NOT telling, even when he is telling me what I want to believe. Also, it does not mention that much of the antagonism toward Amadou M'Bow was brought on by his advocacy of the so-called "New World Information Order".


The book is focused on international aid industry in 70-80s. Author shows that international aid in beneficial mostly for donor-countries economies, corrupted aid industry's officials and workers and developing countries' governments, though poor people remains poor. Though, some things have been changes, I still recommend to read this book in order to understand how it was started and be able to compare with current state.


I read this book when the issue of poverty and humanitarian high on the agenda of both Africa and Asian countries - once worked for Oxfam and CARE the two NGOs mentioned in the book and also with UN that is the focus of discussion throughout the chapters within I have to admit that I'm not at all surprised on the facts that were revealed in the book. Bureucracy, one precription fits all attitude, insensitivity, arrogance of the service providers are all common disease that we can find anywhere. UN may have a good system but to run it effectively they need the right people and unfortunately just like in many other giant organisation, NGOs alike, right people not always sit in the right place... the result? disaster and failure...

Aaron Crossen

I'll finish this one day


I read this while I was a Peace Corps Teacher. It helped to explain why I used to see so many UN SUVs tooling around the capital, but none in my drought-stricken area.It helped that the author makes it clear that he is biased against the UN. At the very least, this book can help clarify the UN's role in aid and development (they are a contracting agency/outsourcer of aid work with a HUGE administrative overhead (over 80% of their budget at the time the book was published). I'd go on, but I don't want this to turn into a rant.


The "culture of aid", the corruption, the waste, the destruction as chronicled in this book is amazing (see pages 62-63 for an example). Although it was written in 1989, and most examples are from the 1980s, it would appear to be equally (or more) valid today.Eye opening perspective.


Buku ini menyoroti ironi polah lembaga Internasional seperti lembaga yang ada dibawah naungan PBB (misal FAO, WHO dll); lembaga keuangan macam World Bank, IBRD, IMF; dan lembaga bantuan sebuah negara seperti USAID.Dalam buku ini, penulis bahwa bantuan asing baik yang bersifat hibah (grant) dan utamanya berupa hutang (loan) cenderung tidak berhasil mengentaskan kemiskinan di negara ketiga, karena:• Bantuan yang disalurkan tidak ditangani oleh tenaga-tenaga profesional. • Tenaga dari lembaga bantuan hidup bergelimang kemewahan sehingga tidak punya emphaty terhadap masyarakat miskin. Sehingga penentuan program untuk masyarakat sering bias dari kondisi lapangan.• Pengembangan program yang didukung bantuan luar negeri seringkali tidak didukung oleh data dan feasibility study yang memadai.• Kurang koordinasi antar lembaga pemberi bantuan yang memunculkan duplikasi dan tumpang tindih program• Korupsi di lembaga pemberi bantuan maupun di lembaga penerima bantuan menimbulkan inefisiensi yang sangat besar.• Program bantuan seringkali salah sasaran sehingga malah memperlebar kesenjangan di masyarakat• Implementasi pembangunan yang menggunakan bantuan luar negeri seringkali menciptakan pelanggaran HAM di lapangan dan si pemberi bantuan sering menutup mata terhadap kasus ini.• Spirit pemberian bantuan khususnya loan oleh lembaga keuangan seringkali lebih didasari pertimbangan untuk menjual kredit pinjaman dan mendapatkan bunga pinjaman.• Sedangkan penyaluran hibah (grant) sering disertai politik dagang didalamnya. Bantuan luar negeri sering disertai upaya untuk menjual produk-roduk dari negara pemberi bantuan, bahkan juga menciptakan ketergantungan kepada si pemberi bantuan.• Terdapat filosofi yang salah dari banyak lembaga penyalur bantuan. Mereka berpendapat bahwa masyarakat miskin adalah “masyarakat tidak berdaya”, sehingga bantuan perlu disalurkan untuk mereka. Akibatnya muncul banyak kegiatan charity dari mereka, yang tidak membangun keswadayaan dan potensi lokal.Dalam buku ini penulis juga mengkritik bahwa masyarakat pembayar pajak di negara maju, disedot pendapatannya untuk disalurkan sebagai bantuan ke negara miskin (termasuk via PBB). Namun selama ini tidak ada mekanisme yang transparans dan akuntabel untuk pelaporan pemanfaatan uang oleh para lembaga penyalur bantuan kepada para pembayar pajak tersebutWalau buku aslinya diterbitkan tahun 1985 namun analisis dalam buku ini sebagian besar masih kontekstual dengan kondisi sekarang. Semoga para birokrat Indonesia juga mampu bernalar jernih ketika membaca buku ini. “Bantuan” merupakan kata yang indah namun ternyata banyak “kecurangan” atau “hidden agenda” didalamnya. Tidak ada makan siang gratis untuk sebuah bantuan...


The Lords of Poverty is a classic despite itself. It covers a lot of interesting ground, and is full of good ammunition to aim at the folly of the world's misguided do-gooders. But a little more gentle irony and a lot less outraged hectoring would make the same point more enjoyably.

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