"The world's biggest economy is also the world's stingiest aid donor... Washington's aid programmes are still not driven by humanitarian imperatives. Rather they are sometimes used to break open new markets for US corporations. How else to explain why Ethiopia, where 15 million are threatened by famine, receives about the same level of food aid as Peru, where American agribusiness dumps dairy surpluses." - Guardian editorial, May 31 2003
Bush Does Aid His Way - But the US is the World's Stingiest Donor
The Guardian, Leader, May 31, 2003
George Bush's trip to the G8 summit in Evian, the Alpine spa town ringed by surface-to-air missile batteries and armed police, is likely to be remembered more for the briefness of his visit - just a day - than what the American president will say. The shortness of his stay is inversely proportional to Mr Bush's anger at the stance of France, the summit's host, over the Iraq war. Germany, another member of the G8, has also been singled out by the Bush White House for its anti-war stance.
Things have got so bad that the president accused Europe last week of perpetuating starvation in Africa by blocking US food aid with anti-GM crop policies. These words and actions threaten to widen the gulf between America and the rest of the world at a time when it needs to be bridged. While the rich squabble, the poor are getting poorer. More than a billion people still live on less than $1 a day in the world. Many are in Africa, where Aids and poverty stalk the land.
Despite a decade of global prosperity, many African nations are poorer now than in 1990.
Part of Mr Bush's mission is to sell American power, both economic and military, as a force for good. The president has been touting his $15bn pledge to combat Aids and loses no time in blasting Europe over agricultural export subsidies. Some have been impressed with Mr Bush's no-nonsense approach to development. Bob Geldof, who has led a long fight against famine in Africa, told the Guardian this week that "the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy".
But in testing the truth of Mr Geldof's opinion, America is found lacking in ambition and effort. The world's biggest economy is also the world's stingiest aid donor. Washington still only devotes 0.12% of its national in come to overseas aid. Europe provides twice as much as America in development cash. Washington's aid programmes are still not driven by humanitarian imperatives. Rather they are sometimes used to break open new markets for US corporations. How else to explain why Ethiopia, where 15 million are threatened by famine, receives about the same level of food aid as Peru, where American agribusiness dumps dairy surpluses.
The Centre for Global Development recently put America second from bottom in its ranking of how effectively developed nation's policies help the poor. More American cash for Aids should be welcomed. Yet the US contribution, measured as a percentage of its GDP, is smaller than Uganda's. A little more than $2bn a year of new money has been promised - but half of it will bypass the UN global fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.
That Mr Bush prefers to reward friends than go through the multilateral route of the UN fund is bad news. The world's prosperity relies on global institutions, where nations work together for the common good. But Mr Bush has used global trade talks to push America's interests ahead of the welfare of the poor. By raising agricultural subsidies sharply and blocking a deal on cheap drugs for the developing world, the Bush administration cannot easily occupy the moral high ground in Evian.
This is not to say that Europe has much of a better track record. The EU's common agricultural policy needs to be reformed and France's proposal to stop dumping cheap American and European cotton, sugar and milk on African markets is a good start. Mr Bush, so fond of coalitions of the willing, has called for a "great mission of rescue" to save Africa. He should begin by launching one with Europe at Evian.
"U.S. aid remains well below historical standards and far below other donor countries." http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/oneworld/20030522/wl_oneworld /118151053610546
The US currently ranks 22nd in the percentage of its gross national income devoted to foreign aid - the lowest of any industrial nation. http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,968356,00.html
"The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States." - USAID website
"...thanks to our conscience-stricken prime minister, and his statesmanlike habit of doing whatever Bush tells him to, Africa is now well and truly stuffed. Every trade distortion Blair once promised to address remains in place... when faced with a choice between saving Africa and saving George Bush from a mild diplomatic embarrassment, Blair has, as we could have predicted, done as his master bids. The scar on the conscience of the world has just become deeper and angrier. " - George Monbiot, The Guardian , Tuesday June 3, 2003 http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,969256,00.html
"The world's biggest economy is also the world's stingiest aid donor. " - Guardian editorial, May 31 2003 http://www.guardian.co.uk/g8/story/0,13365,967654,00.html