On a humid tropical day in Surabaya (Indonesia) almost twelve years ago, I was in a meeting of City officials, consultants to the City, and World Bank staff discussing why a sewerage and sanitation development program was way behind schedule and what might be done about getting it back on course. Not the most interesting of subjects, but that is the sort of thing which, if done correctly, ought to be what development assistance is all about. Anyway, after several attempts to explain to us ignorant foreigners why this particular program had not moved very far, the senior City Government official present said —
But ‘Pak Jerry, you must understand, the real problem with this project is the PEOPLE of SURABAYA.1
That statement summed up almost everything I believe is wrong with the way the concept of “international development” has been framed and pursued ever since the pre-World War II colonial period; including by “us foreigners.” And that, in turn, provides the primary motivation for creating this blog.
Thus, the underlying theme of this Blog is that the problem is NEVER the people of Surabaya — or for that matter other intended beneficiaries of international development efforts. Instead, the problem is that too many government officials and development professionals still think that whatever obstacles they face in alleviating poverty would disappear if only “the people” were smarter, or better trained and educated, or honest, or committed to the “common good”, or less burdened by other deficiencies of intelligence, skills, or character. That is a refrain that I have heard repeatedly in one form or another while working in more than forty African, Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries over more than four decades. And to be blunt about it, “it ain’t true.”
Therefore, the primary mission of this Blog is to provoke readers to think anew about the purpose of international development efforts and alternative approaches to the design, implementation, and evaluation of “international development” projects, programs, and policies. Posts will range from personal reminiscences, subjective opinions, and data-based objective analyses to my own take on current events that illustrate what “international development” efforts should be about and how they could be improved. I VERY MUCH appreciate feedback and comments in response to the posts published on this site and ask only that comments, whether or not of a critical nature, remain civil.
 I first used this story to introduce a paper presented at the Center for International Development, Harvard University (May 4, 2000) and revised for subsequent presentation that same year at the Second Asia Development Forum, Singapore, the USAID Open University in La Paz, Bolivia, and Bolivia’s Universidad de Catolica. Nothing fundamental has changed in the decade since then to change the significance of that story. The version of that earlier paper presented at the Universidad de Bolivia is available at www.eldis.org/fulltext/silverman.pdf while the original PowerPoint slides presented at the Second Asia Development Forum are available at info.worldbank.org/etools/docs/library/128841/silverman.pdf.