On the Edge: Trade and Development

Over the 50 years, Norway and the U.S. have been staunch supporters of a traditional international development policy line that highlights foreign aid as one of the main components for reducing global poverty. Hundreds of billions of dollars have through these years been transferred from the rich developed countries to the poor developing countries. The sad news is that foreign aid money hasn’t really helped much. In fact one of the results of this traditional international development policy is that the aid in itself can represent a problem, and we ought to be able to have an open discussion about these things.

The effects of foreign aid from rich countries on poor countries can be harmful. In Norway we have seen the discussion being less stifled over the last few years, but still many do continue to point their fingers at the ones daring to ask some critical questions on topics such as fighting global poverty with aid money.

A couple of years ago, the Progress Party had the honor of having Mr. Andrew Mwenda as a special guest speaker at our National Annual Convention. Mwenda is a outstanding person and a brave journalist. He’s the founder and owner of The Independent, Uganda’s premier current affairs news magazine, and we invited him to Norway to share some of his thoughts on the future of Africa’s development. His main message was that foreign aid tends to discourage economic and democratic reforms, and has in many ways been a disaster for Africa, and that it’s about time for the West to rethink their policy towards Africa.

New solutions are necessary, and even if Norway is a small country, we’re big when it comes to engagement in international development and assistance to the poor countries.

Norway provides assistance, funding and aid to over 100 countries (!). It seems like we’re everywhere when it comes down to spreading the aid, but nowhere when it comes down to priorities linked to the aid money. The former British Cabinet Minister Peter Mandelson (Labour Party) told The Times Summit on Africa in London earlier this year that “Most of the aid we have sent to Africa over the last five decades has probably, in the main, been wasted as far as growth is concerned… and has turned the region’s countries into professional beggars.” Mandelson also said that the elimination of subsidies and opening up Europe’s markets was the key to helping Africa. I could hardly agree more. It’s time for a radical change in the West’s policy towards the developing countries, and Africa in particular.

The first thing we must do is to start to see the Africans as partners, not as clients. This means that we cannot continue with our policies of handing out aid with one hand, and make sure that the toll bar is closed for trade with our other hand. On the Commitment to Development Index 2010, which is presented by the Center for Global Development, Norway is ranked as the second worst country among the rich countries on trade with developing countries. Large scale prosperity is created by genuine economic growth and development. Norway should support policies that open up world markets to all producers in developing countries and not only favors the tiny minority who has been fortunate enough to obtain a ‘western’ mark of approval on their products. Norway should abstain from such policies and give Norwegian consumers the opportunity to buy more goods from developing countries.

We cannot accept a development policy that on one side assists the build-up of production capacities in poor countries, and on the other side impose restrictions on the import of goods from the same countries. We often hear voices in Norway saying that as one of the richest countries in the world, Norway should be a frontrunner and dare to act symbolically on certain issues. Why don’t we start with our trade policies toward the poor countries, and regardless of what’s happening through the WTO, allow the developing countries to sell their goods to Norway, unimpeded by special taxes, duties and restrictions?

Siv Jensen is the Leader of the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) and also the parliamentary leader for the Progress Party’s group in the Storting (The Norwegian Parliament). The classical liberal (libertarian- conservative) Progress Party is the second largest party in Norway and the leading opposition party. Ms. Jensen has been elected member of the Storting since 1997, representing the district of Oslo. Ms. Jensen is member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense and member of the Enlarged Foreign Affairs Committee.

Please bear in mind that opinions expressed in “On The Edge” are not necessarily those of the Norwegian American Weekly, and our publication of these views are not an endorsement of them.

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