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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spirited rant
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...
Published on July 27 2003 by Tom Munro

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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
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...
Published 8 months ago by ogilive


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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
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
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spirited rant, July 27 2003
By 
Tom Munro "tomfrombrunswick" (Melbourne, Victoria Australia) - See all my reviews
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.
Those who are responsible for aid projects are overpaid, come from foriegn countries and lack language skills to properly evlaute projects. The result is that huge amounts of aid are used to pay for incompetant staff at aid bodies.
The author says that the proof of the pudding is that those countries which have had huge amounts of aid have simply gotten poorer. Aid projects have generally failed. The world would be a better place without any aid at all.
Whilst this is an extreme position the book is a valuable addition to debate in the area.
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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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Foreign Aid Corruption, Feb. 25 2000
In his book Lords of Poverty, Mr. Graham Hancock offers a very detailed account of the so-called Aid Industry. Unfortunately, the case study he presents is completely out of date (the 80's). This is the year 2000 and, hence, fresh figures, new dates and new names are needed.
The other flaw of his book is that, like every one else who has written on the subject of foreign aid, Mr. Hancock bases his account on his experiences in India and in some other regions of Africa. But what about the rest of the world. What we need is a much broader and deeper look of the foreign aid industry as the self perpetuating industry that it actually is, particularly with regard to the secret internal modus operandi of bureaucratic institutions such as the UN, World Bank, OAS, USIAD, etc, etc. In other words, we want the true inside story. It is the only way to really know what's going on.
Few people are aware that these organizations are ran mainly by "political rejects" who after having been thrown out from their own countries accused of becoming political trouble makers, or misfits, they find "haven" in those international aid organizations. Sort of like "dying and going to haven".
The fact that the head of the World Bank or the Secretary General of the UN might have been a head of state before he was rewarded with the current top job does not mean in any way that he is fit for the job that he is holding now. Those top positions and other of lesser importance, are usually regarded as political favors. The same holds true of those professionals who are looking for a place to land a good paying job that requires little or no work at all. To keep a good paying job with private industry, professionals would be required to work very hard, something that many of them don't have to do at the UN or any other international aid organization. These are the "technicians", the "experts" who come to poor third world countries to "straighten things out", as they say, when in fact all they are doing is enjoying officially sponsored vacations with all their expenses paid for with taxpayers money from the industrialized nations. That, I believe, is one of the reasons for the high rate of failure of such organizations: bureaucratic incompetence. It is for this reason that I also believe that some form of tight government control and public scrutiny should be implemented in order to make foreign aid agencies fully accountable for every dime they spend. Otherwise they will continue to function as international clubs of free-loaders.
I guarantee that any American taxpayer would be infuriated to know that the great majority of the employees of these international aid organizations headquartered in the U.S.A. do not, I repeat, do not pay any form of local and/or federal income tax because these organizations (UN, OAS, PAHO, IDB, etc.) are not required by law to report salaries paid to their employees. Therefore, the IRS does not have any way to know who's earning what and who owes what. But even those employees who, by some special circumstance, must file a tax return will do so with the understanding that the organization will not only compute their own taxes, but will also issue them a check for taxes owed on their income. Oh yes, no matter how you cut it, "working" in any of those international organizations is like dying and going to haven; or almost like wining the lottery.
V.P.Reyna Guatemala, Guatemala Mepolly@xela.net.gt
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, July 16 2000
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.The book was written in 1989 and deals mainly with the multiple errors of ommision and commision comitted by various governmental and non governmental organizations.However now with the recent changes in these organisations such as the United Nations it will be interesting to know if the testimony is still damning or the changes have indeed been effective.Looking through the book you may erroneously conclude that this organisations have only been in charge of a litany of woes in the 60's and 70's.I do not think this is the whole story but is indeed a thoughtfull and well reseached critique of bad planning,arrogance that occured.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The seedy underbelly of Western philanthropy is exposed, Jan. 6 2000
By 
Carlo Matthews "carlo" (Been Moving Around) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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 superiority will rightly feel threatened by a book that unmasks supposed philanthropy and disinterestedness as a shameless money-making and exploitative sham. Hancock is relentless in revealing not only the inefficacy of many major projects, but also the attached strings of big business as well as the morally bankrupt nature of many of its protagonits. In addition, Hancock tellingly explores the mentality and logic behind NGO's as little more than another way of making a buck at the expense of the poor. Where would an industry that depends on poverty for its survival be left if poverty it tackled were to be eradicated? Some who find this study too close to home will claim it is condescending and lacking in solutions (as one reveiwer here does). It is neither. Hancock vents moral indignity in a fitting context and offers alternative approaches which in some cases obviate the necessity for development/aid agencies as we know them altogether ("God forbid!" some will cry). This book deserves to be read by all who sincerely wish to see a change in the way development/aid is carried out and in the appalling poverty it is supposed to alleviate. The career-minded need not apply.
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5.0 out of 5 stars damning criticism of corruption in the `aid` industry, Oct. 4 1999
By A Customer
Lords of Poverty presents a very coherent argument, backed up by lots of specific experiences *and* data. It is by no means sensationalistic.
People (such as myself) who have grown up overseas, and have moved in expatriate circles have encountered many examples of abuses and stupidity in the name of `development`. It is widely known and acknowledged that this is a serious problem. But Mr. Hancock has gone beyond giving a handful of anecdotes as examples of what is typical: he has investigated the entire infrastructure supporting this corruption and stupidity. He gets to the heart of the problem and exposes it, rather than just showing a few symptoms. I highly recommend this book. It is intelligently written, for the intelligent reader. Yes it may have a tone of anger at times, but it would be heartless not to be angry at the way in which the peoples of less developed nations are abused and used to make `aid` workers rich.
Furthermore, solutions *are* given, at least if you *look* for them. The author points out that smaller independent aid organizations--generally grassroots community or church-based groups--*are* effective. They are not without faults, of course, but nothing of the magnitude that typifies the large government run agencies.
While I have not worked with large government run agencies, I do know of a professor here at U of M who has worked for them, who admitted to a close friend of mine that the claims of this book are true.
Read the book and see for yourself if the argument stand up. And if you still doubt it, do some investigation. What you'll find will amaze you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate, thoroughly researched - relentless!, Sept. 30 1999
By A Customer
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. The wasted money spent on impossible and ill-conceived "development" schemes will make you mad - as will the many stories of lives ruined by these haphazard, well-financed projects. I came away with a strong sense of needing to do something to work against the elite of "Development, Inc." as the author calls the aid & development industry, and a heightened respect and empathy for the supposed "beneficiaries" of the industry - the world's poorest people.
A powerful read!
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