Wednesday, January 21, 2009

REALLY Big Public Spending Ideas

There is a lot of economic research that suggests that many countries are poor because they lack easy access to water transport.  If you can't cheaply ship goods to or from your country, you tend to be poor.  This is particularly acute in Africa, which has a number of landlocked countries, but also has very few easily navigable rivers.  (In comparison, consider the U.S.  You can take a steamboat from New Orleans to Minneapolis.  Also, look at a map sometime and count the number of rivers that run from the Appalachians down to the Atlantic.)

Anyway, some time back there was a plan mooted by some German engineers to create waterways across Africa.  This involved damming up the Congo river to create a gigantic mid-African lake which would then generate new rivers as it spilled over its surroundings.  The map is here (which I got from Chris Blattman's blog), and take a look at how ambitious their estimates of the water coverage were. 

Crazy, mayber.  But it would get around that whole landlocked thing.

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