Tuesday, June 28, 2005

U.S. aid for Africa is up, but short of Bush claim

In the debates during the 2004 Presidential campaign, Mr. Bush made a number of factual errors.  Now his command of information is being challenged again.  Likewise, during the presidential campaign, polls showed that many Americans were misinformed about crucial political topics; this has become apparent once more.
U.S. aid for Africa is up, but short of Bush claim
27 Jun 2005 21:17:09 GMT

WASHINGTON, June 27 (Reuters) - U.S. aid to Africa has increased 56 percent over the last four years, but has not tripled as President George W. Bush claimed earlier this month, according to a report on Monday by the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

Excluding food and security assistance, U.S. aid to Sub-Saharan Africa rose just 33 percent in real dollar terms, according the report made public a week before a Group of Eight summit in Scotland where aid to Africa will be discussed. [...]

In nominal dollar terms, total U.S. aid to Sub-Saharan Africa increased to $3.39 billion, the last completed fiscal year of the Bush administration, the report said. This compares to $2.34 billion in fiscal 2000, the last full budget year of the Clinton administration.

[Susan] Rice said more than 53 percent of the total increase between 2000 and 2004 consisted of emergency food aid.

"(Food aid) is important, obviously, and meet the need that varies from year to year, depending on circumstances on the ground, but it is not development assistance and the sorts of assistance that enables countries to embark on a path of sustainable assistance," she said.

"It is important for life-saving but from a development point of view it is a Band-Aid," she added, calling the upcoming G8 summit a "historic opportunity" for the U.S to take the lead on increasing aid to the world's poorest continent.
Live 8 challenged by U.S. perception of generosity
27 Jun 2005 13:49:57 GMT
By Mark Egan

NEW YORK, June 27 (Reuters) - Buddy, we gave already.

Live 8 concert organizers want to spur a global groundswell of support for African debt relief, but experts say the biggest challenge in the United States is changing entrenched perceptions that it is the world's most generous country.

Polls over the last decade show most Americans believe 10 percent of the federal budget is spent on humanitarian and economic aid for the world's poor and that America gives more than any other country.

But the world's richest economy actually spends just over one half of 1 percent of its budget on aid to the world's poor, less per capita than every other wealthy nation.
Regarding the first item, it will be interesting to see if the US media pick this up. If so, will the Administration be challenged regarding the misinformation?  Regarding the second item, some will point out that US citizens contribute a great deal via private channels.  That is true, but even if that is taken into account, the US foreign aid still lags behind other wealthy nations.
But even when private giving is counted, American aid on a per-capita basis ranks 19th out of 21 rich countries, according to Foreign Policy magazine's 2004 Ranking the Rich survey.
The Foreign Policy report that the author refers to can be seen here.  Japan is the one nation on the list that ranks lower than the US.  They point out that the rationale for such aid is twofold.  Most obviously, there is an humanitarian reason for the aid.  Secondly, development aid can reduce the potential for global health problems [e.g. bird flu], as well as various kinds of violence [e.g. terrorism].  

In an effort to be fair and balanced, I should point out that FP's Ranking the Rich report also includes what they call a Commitment to Development Index.  The CDI is calculated via a ranking of direct aid and the value of trade, technology, security, environmental standards, and overseas investment, as well as including a rating of immigration policy.  According to the CDI, the US ranks seventh out of twenty-one.

click for link to original source

The asterisk next to Norway indicates that their score was adjusted due to a negative value in the trade category.  

Personally, I find it hard to fault the US public for being misinformed, since most of them don't read blogs.  However, I do fault our educational system, which is increasingly focused on rote learning as opposed to critical thinking.  I also think our President should take responsibility for his error and make a public announcement of the correct information.  Although some persons might hold that against him, those with critical thinking skills would respect him for it.  Or, at least, disrespect him less.

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