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Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business [Hardcover]

Graham Hancock
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1992
Critically examines the international industry that currently channels some $50,000 million from the rich, industrialized nations to the "aid" of the Third World.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars part expose, part tirade, politically confused Nov. 17 2013
By ogilive
This book is certainly worth consulting for anyone studying international aid institutions. The better parts include those on private aid institutions and their related PR divisions; and on World Bank and IMF "structural adjustment." The bulk of the book, however, repetitively details how the aid industry is little more than a sort of stimulus program for the the already affluent. Most disturbingly, Hancock repeatedly cites US actions in the 1980s to curtail and undermine international aid and participation as examples of "responsible" responses to legitimate shortcomings of those institutions and actions -- rather than what they were: assertions of self-interested, unilateral foreign policy (what used to be called imperialism).
PS: It turns out that this Graham Hancock is the same Graham Hancock who later wrote the sensationalist-archaeological "Fingerprints of the Gods" series, confirming the suspicion that his judgment, his political views in particular, are highly questionable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spirited rant July 27 2003
This book has the flavour of someone who has stewed over the question of foriegn aid for some time and then suddenly this book has been an outpouring of every bit of frustration ever felt by the author. From looking at his other books it appears that he is a person with a thorough background in the industry.
The book is one of the most daming that I have read. Although short the book marshals its facts and explains every argument with a clarity that is breathtaking.
The arguments are that the organisations which are involved in providing aid are incompetent. There are a number of reasons for the incompetance but all orginsations which deal with aid are incompetant and corrupt.
At the head of the list is the world bank. The world bank is willing to make grants of aid conditional on changes to monetary policy and dismanteling of anti competative market systems but it never wants to make aid conditional on introducing human rights or democracy. As a result changes to make the market more competative almost always damage the poor by for example the removal of food subsidies. The benifits of World Bank loans almost always flow to the middle class or urban dwellers. The Indian Economist Sen has shown that democracies do not have famines. If the world bank was to make democracy the condition of aid packages it would be more likely to reduce famines in these countries. In fact govermental corruption or incompetance is the real reason for the sorts of problems which require aid in the first place.
The world bank is addicted to large capital intensive projects. Most of these turn out to be white elephants and have unsustainable maintence costs. Again the benifits of electification or transport benifits mainly the urban centres.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still very relevant April 10 2001
It's too bad that updated editions of "Lords of Poverty" were never published; indeed, even this edition was out of print for several years before this reprint edition. Hancock's writing style here may be a sustained rant, but it nevertheless provides a great deal of useful information and tears down many of the misconceptions most Americans or Europeans may have about the international aid industry. Particularly interesting is his criticism of the various UN agencies and, especially, the World Bank and the IMF - whose projects all too often do more harm than good (if they do any good at all). Perhaps the most disturbing aspect exposed in this book is still quite valid today: that taxpayers in the big donor countries like the U.S., Germany, Japan, the U.K. etc. are footing the bill for many disastrous projects worldwide that make the lives of impoverished populations even worse and often destroy in the environment in the process. "Lords of Poverty" may be dated, but it's still well worth the read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly articulated nonsense June 22 2000
The book, while appearing to be quite academic, is, in fact a diatribe.
Some of the foregoing reviews have been pinned mainly on the emotion of the debate regarding foreign assistance, and not on the facts of the achievement thereof.
I'd like to put forth the case that, whatever may have been the operating environment during Mr. Hancock's experience, things have changed. They have changed with regard to the type of people that are working in the international development community, and the type of people who work for international NGOs. Whatever Viola P. Renya might think, my experience has shown that these are not people who believe they have 'dyed and gone to haven' (SIC), because they 'scored' a job with CARE or Save the Children. They are people who have left much more lucrative employment, in some cases, to help their fellow-people.
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2.0 out of 5 stars One part fact, one part rant June 8 2004
By A Customer
The first half of this short book is a relatively informative overview of the responsibilities and functions of major aid and development agencies, although the statistics are now well out of date. That said, little of any of this is primary research and the author relies fairly selectively on sensationalistic quotes and facts that tell the part of the story he wants to tell.
The second half of the book, however, is little more than a rant during which the author mocks and insults aid and development workers for about 100 pages. The vitriolic quality of writing makes one wonder if an aid worker dumped him at some point. You could skip this whole part of the book and be better off for it.
Maybe I take it personally since I'm an aid worker, but I can tell you with authority that Mr. Hancock really doesn't have any idea what he's writing about - he mischaracterizes the lives and personalities of most aid workers and oversimplifies the challenges and complexity of the work. He's angry and bitter about something and I don't think it's corruption or incompetence.
And just for the record: Reviewer Viola P. Reyna doesn't have command of the facts either. Most foreign aid workers are required to pay taxes in their home countries while living abroad. Americans living abroad for more than 330 days a year, whether they are aid workers or oil drillers or whatever, are not required to pay taxes unless they make over $80,000. Everyone is still, however, required to report their incomes and file their tax returns. So contrary to what Viola says, the US Government knows exactly what everyone is making.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
This is a thought provoking treatise on the AID industry to countries of the third world.It is a well researched book by an insider. Read more
Published on July 16 2000 by Olumide Ogunremi
4.0 out of 5 stars Foreign Aid Corruption
In his book Lords of Poverty, Mr. Graham Hancock offers a very detailed account of the so-called Aid Industry. Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2000 by Viola P. Reyna
5.0 out of 5 stars The seedy underbelly of Western philanthropy is exposed
Hancock exposes the seedy underbelly of development/aid as few have dared in the past. Those who live off this industry or have vested interests in spouting an image of Western... Read more
Published on Jan. 6 2000 by Carlo Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars damning criticism of corruption in the `aid` industry
Lords of Poverty presents a very coherent argument, backed up by lots of specific experiences *and* data. It is by no means sensationalistic. Read more
Published on Oct. 4 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate, thoroughly researched - relentless!
This book is a MUST READ for anyone in international aid, finance, politics, and anyone who wants to make some sense of the aid & development industry. Read more
Published on Sept. 30 1999
1.0 out of 5 stars Insultingly sensationalistic and logically challenged
While mis-uses of international aid funds certainly do happend, and while development programs sometimes run amuck, Mr Hancock very poorly supports his thesis - that international... Read more
Published on Jan. 22 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars All your suspicions will be confirmed
This book is getting a little dated now, but remains a classic critique of the international aid business. Read more
Published on Oct. 6 1998
5.0 out of 5 stars Incisive, well researched-a daring expose of aid in the 80s.
Hancock's aim is to encourage the reader to question the real motivations behind aid to "developing" countries. When we give, who are we really benefitting the most. Read more
Published on Jan. 16 1998 by gmachell@loxinfo.co.th
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