Do Not Give the Needy Money…

“Do Not Give the Needy Money: Build Them Industries Instead”

J.W.Smith

(From Transparency for Development)

* * *

“With the record of corruption within impoverished countries, people will question giving them money. That can be handled by giving them the industry directly, not the money. …. When provided the industry, as opposed to the money to build industry, those people will have physical capital. The only profits to be made then are in production; there is no development money to intercept and send to a Swiss bank account.”

(from J.W. Smith, Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle for the 21st Century)

* * *

Eritrea, 1990s

“So while we toiled away building our factory, the entire population was trying to rebuild their country. There was compulsory military service still, and those called up were put to work building roads and bridges. They did it with a lot of smarts – if you drove down the main highway into the bowels of the country there was a new 100m-wide trench of a road that had been cleared and would be a motorway eventually. On either side, palm trees were being planted and you saw an Eritrean who might be in her seventies, coming down a green slope carrying a bucket of water and tending to a palm tree. Everybody was doing something…

We eventually finished the construction of the building to international standards, and the team from Australia arrived to set up the manufacturing equipment. I watched with dismay as the first lenses were produced. It was painfully clear that the lathe and most of the equipment Fred had bought were not capable of producing usable lenses.

This was another test of character, because I had done what I promised Fred and could have simply moved on, letting the Fred Hollows Foundation sort out the mess. But by this stage the Eritreans had put their trust in me, so I sourced some generic lens-making equipment and started to put in place a plan to make world-class lenses at a fraction of the price of those distributed by multinational companies…

I wanted the Eritreans to be able to sell their lenses around the world so that they could make decent money out of this. I didn’t just want to produce lenses for eye camps in the villages. That meant the lenses had to meet international standards or no one would buy them…

It was important to me that the lenses we made were of equal or better quality than those from the multinational lens manufacturers. So I sent samples of our lenses for independent evaluation to the world expert on intraocular lens manufacture, Professor David Apple at the Medical University of South Carolina Storm Eye Institute.

“You have chosen a design which we think is an absolute state of the art in terms of surface finish and general Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) appearance,” he said in his report. “I’ve never seen better lens manufacture.”…

We had succeeded in doing something that was theoretically impossible: manufacturing world-class intraocular lenses in one of the poorest, most technically compromised countries in the world.

The other result of the new process was that the price of generic lenses plummeted globally. Ours cost three dollars to make, a fraction of what they had been produced for previously. We could get them onto the market for less than ten dollars, making quality cataract surgery accessible to the poorest of the poor.

This was also a perfect example of 100 per cent technology transfer to the local people. I don’t have to do anything at those labs and haven’t since 2003. We did the job, got in and got out, and they are expanding their operations and product ranges themselves.

Now the lenses are exported to about eighty countries and, by 2020, thirty million people will have had their sight restored due to the innovative lens-manufacturing technology.”

(from ‘Rebel with a cause’ by Ray Avery)

* * *

Nepal

“Building our next lens-manufacturing plant, in Nepal, was a lot easier, because of all the lessons we had learnt in Eritrea…

When we designed the lathes, instead of a whole lot of complicated circuit boards with lots of things that could go wrong, ours was broken into smaller units with little lights, and you could quickly isolate and identify a problem when one came up. These were named BRTs – Big Round Things – and if there was something wrong, a BRT’s light wouldn’t be shining and you just replaced that unit…

We enjoyed training local people. The Nepalese have always had a tradition of moving to other countries to live. Many of our protégés now work overseas, but they trained people to take their place before they left because we taught them that was what you had to do when you have been given a skill. You passed it on. And as they move around the world, the general level of skills will rise as they take knowledge with them.”

(from ‘Rebel with a cause’ by Ray Avery)

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10 thoughts on “Do Not Give the Needy Money…

  1. dilipnaidu says:

    Beautiful and inspirational. This is perfect example of how benefits are passed on effectively to the local people.
    Thanks.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Thanks, Dilip. Ray Avery is a truly amazing person. In his autobiography he describes his incredible journey from a street kid to a successful businessman, scientist, entrepreneur, inventor and humanitarian. I found the whole story of his life very inspirational and hope to be able to contribute my skills to his Medicine Mondiale initiative one day.

    • Otrazhenie says:

      Ray Avery’s autobiography also provides a good insight into his management style, which can be best described by Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s words “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea” (from https://otrazhenie.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/if-you-want-to-build-a-ship/). Ray Avery is particularly good at that with his ‘band of brothers’. 🙂

  2. nyparrot says:

    There’s a Russian saying, that is roughly translates: “Don’t hand me the fish you caught, give me the fishing rod, and you’ll provide me with the opportunity to keep catching fish for years to come on my own.:) Great, thoughtful post! Thank you!

  3. […] from the rut of poverty to prosperity. More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? As J.W. Smith points it, with the record of corruption within impoverished countries, people will question […]

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