Foreign Aid Follies Part 2

, Emmanuel Opati, Leave a comment

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on January 22nd that the current administration will fight efforts to curb billions of dollars in U.S aid to Pakistan. Condoleezza, who is in Europe for the U.N. Security Council meeting that is considering new sanctions on Iran said that Musharraf is a “good ally in the war on terrorism.” Since Sept. 11, 2001, United States has given Musharraf’s government and army about $10 billion U.S. in assistance.

Husain Haqqani, Director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, said, “Pakistani’s military looks upon the U.S. as the check writer.” “Pakistan has received $21 billion U.S. since 1954, and $17 billion U.S. of that has gone under military governments mainly for military purposes. American has made the army the most important institution in Pakistan,” added Haqqani.

In his research paper on human development, that studied 97 countries between 1970 and 1990, Peter Boone, a Professor at the London School of Economics, concluded that “development assistance had fattened political elites.”

For instance, in 2006, Uganda’s Ministry of Health was under investigation for possible misuse of approximately $160,000 U.S. of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) program intended to increase immunization coverage. Unbothered by criticisms of corruption in his government, Uganda’s President went ahead to buy a Gulfstream jet worth U.S. $48.2 million in a country whose GDP was $52.93 billion.

In many ways, foreign aid is partially responsible for promoting such behavior in some developing countries. This has created what author and columnist Doug Bandow calls “irresponsible behavior” in many leaders of the developing world. Doug Bandow argues that “the expectation of a subsidy encourages people to behave irresponsibly,” evidenced by the Savings and Loan (S&L) crisis in U.S in the1980s when a government bailout became a ‘moral hazard.’

Andrew Barungi, Ugandan citizen, told Blake Lambard, a reporter with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio that “politicians and the population as a whole develop a mentality of saying, ‘If we need this or that, the West will give us aid,’ hence stagnating the ability of the people to work for themselves because they know there is someone with a fat wallet willing to bankroll their uncalled-for expenses.”

The problem is that most of the foreign aid and development efforts look at the poor people as victims thereby creating the ‘help is on the way’ mind-set. Very limited efforts have been directed to creating awareness that Africa is a big market. Political leaders in China and India have an incentive to promote development. They feel they are a big market which is attracting investors, not sympathizers, from the West. It is a status they enjoy and will work hard to maintain.

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the “African mobile market has been the fastest-growing market of all regions, growing at twice the rate of the global market, with a leap from 16 million to 136 million subscribers between 2000 and 2005.” But the West still views Africa as a continent in dire need of aid.

However, the feeling of empowerment that a buyer feels in the mall when deciding what to buy can be transferred to the African people if the world viewed Africa as a market. Consequently, Africans (especially political leaders) would have an incentive to work hard to maintain such a status. But how does the West react-more aid.

In September 2007 the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chaired an emergency meeting to address concerns that Sub-Sahara African countries may not achieve any of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Though Africa was the focus of the 2005 G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, (where the world’s leading industrialized nations pledged to double development aid by 2010 and to free the poorest countries of their debts) not even Britain is on track with its aid pledge. Italy had a 30-percent cut and the United States (the largest contributor) reduced aid by 20 percent. Are these reactions really genuine?

Facts and figures indicate that development of Africa is not among priorities of western countries. According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO), support to education from multilateral agencies (excluding the World Bank) in 2002 amounted to nearly $660 million U.S. in 2002. On the other hand, Grant Montgomery reports that in 2006 Americans and Europeans spent $17 billion U.S. on pet foods, $12 billion on perfumes, $11 billion on ice cream in Europe and $8 billion was spent on cosmetics in the United States.

Does anyone really give a damn about the poor?

The first half of this article can be read here

Emmanuel Opati is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.