Renu Mehta, daughter of a wealthy Indian textile manufacturer, joined with Nobel Prize winning economist James Mirrlees to propose radical changes in the way that world governments make and fund foreign aid policies. Mehta and Mirrlees are making the rounds in government and United Nations offices to garner support for a program that would have governments matching private donations by wealthy individuals and allowing the wealthy to join governmental representatives on boards that would dictate the terms underlying the aid grants.
Mehta and Mirrlees contend that a matching plan for foreign aid would enable governments falling behind on their UN Millenium Development Goals to bolster their shortfalls with private donations.
While Mirrlees might command an audience due to his receipt of a Nobel Prize in Economics, Mehta seems to be the party attracting attention with this proposal.
What are Renu Mehta’s Foreign Aid and Public Policy Qualifications?
Renu Mehta’s qualifications for participating in international foreign aid public policy decisions are nonexistent. Renu Mehta worked as a model and did some clothing design for her family’s business, design work she herself rates not particularly good.
Disinterested in her work, she decided to help the poor. When she asked her father for advice on how to help the poor, he advised her to spend a year reading up on the issues, about which Renu Mehta apparently knew nothing. Renu Mehta instead read a single book, one whose name she couldn’t remember when asked during a recent interview.
In her newfound zeal to do good, she organized some charity fundraisers with big name donors. She paid Bill Clinton an undisclosed amount frequently described as $400,000-450,000 to be the guest of honor at one of her charity parties. These parties were successful, mainly because Renu Mehta’s family has well-heeled business connections and friends with deep pockets.
Would Anyone Listen to Renu Mehta on Foreign Aid Policy if She Weren’t Gorgeous and Wealthy?
The idea of letting the wealthy dictate governmental foreign aid terms is anathema to many citizens. Apparently, this plan would have little appeal were it promoted solely by a Nobel Prize winning economist; what else could explain the Mirrlees-Mehta team approach to peddling this foreign aid proposal? But with a gorgeous, wealthy woman like Renu Mehta added to the mix, is the foreign aid plan itself any more appealing?
Anyone focused on the issues instead of on Renu Mehta’s beauty would have to say no. Allowing wealthy citizens to dictate governmental foreign aid policy, or even have an individual say in such policy not granted to other citizens, by virtue of their ability to make substantial financial contributions, is a dangerous precedent. In essence, such a policy overrides the “public” in “public policy.” The policy opens the door to the super-rich becoming public policy dictators and governments becoming their tools.
Being wealthy and having an opinion does not a public policy expert make. Nor a representative of the people does it make. Renu Mehta might benefit from taking her father’s advice more seriously and instead of rushing to results, making a more careful study of the issues, including the implications of turning over public functions to private citizens selected not by the people but by themselves on the basis not of expertise but wealth.
Sources: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gFBOWimtt_06Cdt6tT_bD8f_wHRwD98CAQ8O0; http://www.ultrabrown.com/wp-content/themes/modern/shownews.php?tag=renu%20mehta; http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/the_way_we_live/article1419016.ece; http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article5604439.ece; http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/05/06/2561959.htm; http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/article/2009/05/04/67765_opinion.html.