How terrible the Asian tsunami was. Sitting here at my desk it seems a little callous to even try to make some kind of poiltical statement about it. But even as I welcome the $35 million that the US has pledged to aid relief efforts (and the $1 million from the UK), I am still struck at how paltry these sums are in real terms. We pay sportsmen more than this. Anyway, here are some figures that detail overseas aid by First World countries:
The US overseas aid budget was about $15 billion in 2003. This makes the US the world’s largest aid donor. But before Uncle Sam feels too proud of itself note that this is about 0.12% of GDP (ranking 22nd in the world). The UN target is 0.7%. Only five countries – Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Sweden – are above the 0.7 per cent mark, with Norway the highest at 0.92. The UK is at about 0.3% (ranking 10th). Egypt, Russia and Israel are the largest recipients of American aid.
The American people are more generous, however. Per latest estimates, Americans privately give at least $34 billion overseas. This figure will no doubt be welcome by those Americans who believe that the people can do a better job than the government in improving the world around them. But one analyst has stated that, “industry and private donations are [generally] feel-good, short-term interventions”.
It’s time we gave more.