Post-colonialism: Expatriate advisers

When the Board of the Central Bank in a small recently-decolonised Asian nation sought input from an appropriate international agency about an appropriate policy for the future, it was to convince an inexperienced government. The government was more likely to accept a suggested plan from an expatriate authorised adviser than one developed from within the Bank.

I was told the following story by a friend from that nation. The international expert sat down with each of the ‘Young Turks’ (overseas-trained, fast-rising, young economists). Obtaining their ideas about an appropriate development plan, he packaged into his report to the Board a consolidated version. Everyone was happy. The expert went home with a fat cheque.

Believing that what a European can do could surely also be done by an Asian, one of the Young Turks took off to advise one of the African nations for 3 years. It was lucrative.

He was not the first from that nation to become an expatriate consultant – on expatriate European levels of remuneration – to advise an African nation. As another friend of mine from that nation wrote to me, from his post as an expatriate consultant, the Africans were paying ‘white man’ fees to black consultants.

By the 1960s, there were quite a few economists from that nation in one or more international agencies. Perhaps appointments to such agencies did not involve the intangible, sub-surface, and allegedly flexible processes which were said to apply in nations in the developing world. Personal contacts and relative influence seem to have been disproportionately prevalent in these nations.

However, could even the most sensible, pragmatic, development plans devised by expatriate consultants overcome the stranglehold by the neo-colonial nations over the economies of developing nations? Then, there is the competition provided in the international market-place by developed nations such as Australia establishing themselves as growers of rice, tea, coffee, and tropical fruits, and thus damaging the much-needed export markets of the under-developed nations all over the world. As well, there is the confluence of the greed of some national leaders and the rapacity of the neo-colonial nations.

Add to that the foreign loans which have to be repaid; and the private charity monies which are reportedly deflected into non-development accounts in the receiving nation. In the 1960s, it was reported that, within 9 months, monies lent or given to certain Latin American nations would be back in U.S. bank accounts.

Expatriate advisers can only point the way forward.