Thursday, December 30, 2004

Who's stingy?

Dr. Daniel Drezner analyzes the "stinginess" meme:
Is the United States stingy with disaster relief? Compared to other OECD countries, no.

President Bush was correct in pointing out that the U.S. is the largest provider of "humanitarian relief aid" in terms of total dollars -- in 2003, the U.S. gave $2.478 billion (all figures courtesy of CGD's David Roodman, who plucked them from the OECD's Development Assistance Committee).

Of course, the United States is also the biggest economy, so the raw dollar term doesn't mean that much. What about in per capita terms?

...Out of the 21 major donors, we're ninth -- hardly stingy, though not the most generous. One could make the case that comparing large economies with Scandanavia or the Benelux states is unfair, because the bigger economies have other public goods functions to fulfill. If you limit the comparison to the G-7 countries, only Great Britain is more generous....

[C'mon, though, just...$35 million pledged for tsunami relief efforts in the first few days?--ed. Well, that figure probably doesn't include the cost of military deployments or the dispatching of U.S. CDC personnel to the region. That said, here's the relevant graf from Jim VandeHei and Robin Wright's Washington Post story:

The usual U.S. contribution during major disasters is 25 to 33 percent of total international aid, according to J. Brian Atwood, a former USAID administrator. So far, the U.S. contribution is 13 percent of the $270 million in international aid that has been pledged, the United Nations said Wednesday.

My guess is that the U.S. will ramp up its contribution as regional needs are properly assessed. At a gut level, however, $35 million sounds puny compared to the devastation in the region. Combine this with reporters eager to feed the "Bush administration does not play well with others in world politics" meme and you've got a lovely political football. Of course, the initial comment by the United Nations official also fed right into the conservative meme about the UN being reflexively anti-American...
I've been watching the emotional tone of the debate, as we work through the problem of "who's doing their fair share." Guilt, mistrust, anger, rationalization, and wounded pride are evident. (I'm not the first to wonder if the UN is shaming us into giving more.)

But can't we be proud of this news from the American Red Cross?
-Five American Red Cross workers currently in or en-route to affected areas (Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia) with expertise to support relief effort in three primary areas: water sanitation services, family linking and reunification, and relief supply distribution.
-Relief supplies—including plastic sheeting, family size tents and hygiene kits—housed in area near region to ensure quick mobilization, ready for shipment and distribution.
-As of noon 12/30/04 donations to the American Red Cross International Response Fund (IRF) stand at $27.9 million.-American Red Cross leadership will continue to work with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, its sister societies and other international partners in the coming days and weeks on this expansive international relief effort.

Personally, I'm with on Arcanus Maximus on this: "I love watching stingy Americans donate via" (See link in sidebar!)

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