Comercio más que ayuda

La reciente reunión del G-8 en Escocia, así como los conciertos y el activismo de las celebridades, ha puesto los reflectores sobre el monto de la asistencia internacional que llega a los países y los pueblos de Africa. Esto es comprensible a la luz de la pobreza persistente del continente, sus conflictos aparentemente interminables y la prevalencia del VIH-SIDA y otras enfermedades contagiosas. Si se le dirige de manera adecuada y se le condiciona a la adopción de reformas, la ayuda internacional puede significar una diferencia positiva.

Pero la asistencia no es una panacea. El hecho de que persistan tantos problemas a pesar de las decenas de miles de millones de dólares en asistencia y de los años de esfuerzo es un triste recordatorio de que la ayuda puede permitir a los gobiernos hacer inversiones imprudentes que logran poco o que se puede desviar a manos de funcionarios corruptos. Además, la ayuda es inherentemente incierta, lo que deja a los africanos a merced de fuerzas externas que ellos no pueden controlar.

Otro problema de poner el énfasis en la ayuda (además de la casi total imposibilidad de medir con exactitud la magnitud de los flujos de todas las fuentes) es que el esfuerzo político para incrementarla absorbe una atención que estaría mejor aprovechada si se dedicara a un instrumento más poderoso del desarrollo económico: el comercio.

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