Originally published in The Washington Times, June 1, 2002
In his May 29 Op-Ed column, "Diplomacy by dollars," Joseph S. Nye Jr. is correct when he applauds the Bush administration?s decision to increase significantly the foreign aid budget. However, he fails to identify a critical component in the war against poverty and despair abroad: the private sector. Even with the administration?s proposed increases, there is not enough money in the development kitty to do the job. However, there are vast untapped resources in the private sector. As a result, the only viable long-term solution is an extensive public-private partnership in the area of foreign aid and economic development abroad. Unfortunately, the international development community has failed to understand the immensely positive rose that investors can play, no only in basic economic development, but in areas such as legal and institutional reform. Nongovernmental organizations and development activists often mistrust multinational corporations and see them as money-grubbing wolves probing the globe in search of cheap labor and natural resources to exploit. The private sector, in turn, traditionally has not considered itself a vital player in the quest to alleviate poverty and misery. If one accepts the premise that today?s poverty and despair in the developing world breed tomorrow?s terrorists, U.S. businesses abroad should be stampeding to work with the public sector and aid organizations to eradicate these problems. In light of the significant levels of capital that will be required, it is equally critical that governments and international institutions reach out to the private sector and its immense resources. The need for a public-private partnership in the fight against poverty abroad could not be more pressing.
JOHN HEWKO Visiting Scholar Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Washington