War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 March, 2011, 12:00am

War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times
by Linda Polman
Penguin Viking HK$221

To give, or not to give: it's the eternal dilemma when asked to donate to a worthy cause. And Hongkongers know all about that - after all, they are recognised as being some of the most generous in the world. But after reading this thought-provoking account, you might think twice before digging deep again into your pocket. Polman argues that a large chunk of donations ends up not in the mouths of refugees of humanitarian crises but feeding the armies of governments that instigate some of these calamities or in the hands of corrupt government officials. It makes depressing and frustrating reading, particularly when one former aid official remarks: 'There's a market for good works and it's big business. Call it the 'moral economy' if you like.' Polman takes to task some of the scare-mongering headlines which often present at face value what aid organisations say, irrespective of the reality. She also dares donors to ask how exactly their money is being spent, whether the organisation they are giving to is sufficiently independent and whether to do nothing would, in fact, be better.