Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Economic Hitmen" strike again?

This blog is becoming my little soapbox where I can yell stuff at the world, apparently today I have a lot on my mind. =)

Did you see this story today on the 80 billion dollar dam for the Congo?

What a wonderful investment, bring electricity to the masses in Africa!

Now go read this book.

Since I can't wait for you to do it, here's the quick summary: an economic "forecaster" in a well-regarded consulting firm predicts that a very large and expensive engineering project will spur double-digit growth in some poor, far-away country -- like the Congo. The World Bank funds it, large US engineering firms do the work, and the poor little country is left with the bill -- only $80B, with flexible payment plans!

World Bank believes it's doing the world a favor. Large US engineering firms gets a terrific contract and a ton of cash. Leader of small country is praised for his vision, gathers a few miscellaneous incentives for his part, and in time turns things over to someone else. Small country is left with a monstrous debt, and an underperforming investment, that the forecaster then blames on ever-changing conditions.

Only the economic forecaster had to be "tainted". Everybody else was on a noble mission to improve the world. The situation takes decades to pan out, and in the end, an entire region's economy is *crushed*. It's happened dozens of times across the world.

As President Hinckley recently advised us -- don't go into debt to make an investment. It bit me in college, and it's about to bite the Congo.

Don't do it! Start small, then let the return on your investment pay for the incremental upgrades -- that's good advice for small businesses (thanks, Larry), and for countries too.

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