Really interesting story from Planet Money:
There are lots of problems with Haiti’s rice market. Since the earthquake, free rice from foreign aid groups has made it harder for Haitian farmers to sell what they grow.
Even before the earthquake, they had a hard time competing with foreign rice, which is produced using high-output, modern farming techniques that aren’t available in Haiti.
As we noted last week, some rice farmers find themselves forced to choose between keeping enough rice for their children to eat, and selling enough rice to pay for their children to go to school.
All reminders, among other things, that foreign aid and economic development are hard. Also reminders that while stuff (free foreign rice) is good, opportunities are better. Foreigners putting up the money for free schools—universities even—wouldn’t have the same kind of market-distorting impact. In the case of Haiti, it’s still the case that there’s a lot Western countries could do to make it easier for Haitians to sell goods to western markets or for Haitians to move to Western cities and do work. And of course as nations like China and India and Brazil become a larger and larger share of the world economy they to have an obligation to allow less fortunate countries to sell their products.