Cash on delivery of your kids to school

New York takes a lesson from Brazil and Mexico

Published September 22, 2006 9:55PM (EDT)

So in January Mayor Bloomberg appoints a blue-ribbon 32-member Commission on Economic Opportunity, headed by Time-Warner CEO Richard Parsons, and charges it with coming up with an anti-poverty plan for New York.

After nine months of deliberation, the commission produces a nice glossy report, and on Monday, Mayor Bloomberg gave a speech detailing the city's determination to improve the circumstances of 1.5 million or so poor New Yorkers.

So what does every news account of the speech lead with? Bloomberg's reference to "conditional cash transfers" -- a program that basically means paying poor people to send their kids to school and get their proper immunizations and so on and so forth. Except here's the funny thing -- nowhere in the Commission on Economic Opportunity's report are conditional cash transfers mentioned! If I were Richard Parsons, I'd be a little annoyed.

Now, as the Center for Global Development notes, the really interesting thing about this is that conditional cash transfer programs have been implemented, with considerable success, in Latin America -- particularly in Mexico and Brazil. So instead of the standard "rich country telling poor country how to fix their problems" scenario, here we have a rare example of South-to-North knowledge transfer. Let's applaud: In a truly global world, we'd all be learning from each other.

But that just makes me more curious. Who got Bloomberg's ear and told him to try this scheme out? Where's the missing link between Mexico and Gotham?

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Brazil Globalization How The World Works Latin America Mexico