Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The worlds of poverty and policy: Can compassionate be an adjective describing a technocrat*?

My smashing roommate/classmate Emily Stanger just posted a must-read entry in her blog, reflecting on the tensions between hard-nosed technocratic policy and compassionate connection to the poor. This issue has been the subject of many, many late night conversations over the past week, and Emily's entry has captured beautifully the complexities that have quite literally kept Emily, Yue Man and I up all night. As I write this at the end of my third consecutive 15 hour day working (until 11 PM) in the uber-technocratic Ministry of Finance, I'm crossing my fingers that her conclusion is right! In any event, definitely take a look at Emily's blog for some insightful food for thought.

And thank goodness for brilliant, passionate, and amazing people like Emily!


Drew Kinder said...

Molly, with regard to the tension between technocratic vs. grass roots solutions to development in extremely poor countries like Liberia, it seems to me there is room for both, and any combination of the two. Based on your earlier reporting, it doesn't seem to me that Liberia would turn down any aid from any source.
The key is transparency and honesty. Governments, in developed as well as developing countries, get into trouble when they act in secret; even when their actions are well intended.
As long as the Liberian government is open and honest with its people and the world, progress is possible.
As you reported, it took a number of years to destroy Liberian society through war and anarchy. I suspect it will take as long, or longer, to restore it.
Your 11 hour work days at the Ministry of Finance are just a small contribution to that process.
I believe President Lincoln’s words, spoken at Gettysburg and permanently inscribed on the Lincoln Monument, apply to Liberia today;
“…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Keep up the good work.


Anonymous said...


The answer to your question is absolutely! The best technocrats are those with a bigger purpose, and, in a county like Liberia, that surely has to involve the alleviation of poverty. Sometimes balancing the budget even in the face of massive social needs is being compassionate (but sometimes it's not i.e., when you are not credit constrained, have no credibility issues and you expect with some certainty a massive increase in revenues ;o))

I look forward to many more late night talks - next topic: numeracy or literacy, which is more important to develop?

BTW this is my very first blog comment. I wanted to save my first time for my favourite partner in crime.

Yue Man

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