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Sophal Ear *97 (Photo: Courtesy Sophal Ear)

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New book: Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy, by Sophal Ear *97 (Columbia University Press)

The author: Born in Cambodia, Ear and his family became refugees. When the Khmer Rouge took over in the 1970s, he and his mother and siblings escaped (though his father and oldest brother died) making it to Vietnam, then living in France, before moving to the United States. Today, he is an assistant professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, where he teaches courses on post-conflict reconstruction and political economy. He has worked for the World Bank and the United Nations. Aid Dependence in Cambodia was inspired by his family background.
The book: The author examines the relationship between aid dependence and governance. Cambodia has depended on foreign aid and intervention for about two decades, he argues, yet maternal mortality and inequality have increased and corruption is “entrenched as a political system in today’s Cambodia.” The long-term effects of aid dependence, he writes, “have made it difficult, if not impossible, for Cambodia to take ownership of its own development.” Ear also offers ideas on how Cambodia can move forward, including weaning itself from foreign aid “sooner rather than later,” strengthening tax collection, and reestablishing the link between representation and taxation. 
From the introduction: “When I came to America in 1986, aged ten, starting seventh grade at Willard Junior High School in Berkeley, California, and not speaking a word of English, one of the first things I did was write a letter to President Ronald Reagan to thank him for fighting Communism. “