Junkets, PR, and Ethics

As a fan of both Joseph Stiglitz and obscure Indian Ocean island countries, I was excited to see Mark Thoma linking to a new post by Stiglitz titled “The Mauritius Miracle.” Sadly, the article is pretty thin on actual analysis and thick on fulsome praise for Mauritian policymakers. And Stiglitz’s random turn at the end toward advocating that Diego Garcia be returned to Mauritius is just bizarre in an article that’s ostensibly about Mauritian social policy, raising uncomfortable questions about his motivation in writing the piece.

Why would Joseph Stiglitz really care about the political status of the Chagos Archipelago, which includes Diego Garcia? (Also, how are we to reconcile the idea that everything is great in Mauritius with the apparent vital importance of reclaiming atolls that never held more than about 1000-2000 people? ) Well, it looks like about ten months ago the Mauritian government started cranking up its lobbying campaign on the Chagos issue. And Stiglitz mentions that he recently paid Mauritius a visit. Hmmm.

At a minimum I think someone needs to ask Stiglitz: who paid for your trip to Mauritius? If Stiglitz was visiting the country on his own dime, either as a tourist or for work, and happened to meet with Mauritian policymakers who influenced his opinions, that seems fair enough. But if he was on an all-expenses paid junket with the Mauritian government footing the bill in exchange for a blanket endorsement of their major policy aims, Stiglitz owes it to his readers to disclose that fact. I don’t know which of these is the case, but the way the article is structured – almost like a checklist of barely disguised talking points – is not encouraging.

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