Friday, February 03, 2006

Grapes and watermelons

In the comments to the Bono post, Mark Harden takes exception to the implication in Bono’s speech that the U.S. is not being generous enough with its foreign aid to developing countries.

Here is a website with a lot of good information on that very topic.

What we find out from the site is that the U.S. does indeed lead the world in foreign aid assistance when looking at total dollars given. Here is a list of the developed countries and the amount the dollar amount (in millions) that they donate towards ODA (Official Development Assistance).

United States 19,705
Japan 8,906
France 8,473
United Kingdom 7,883
Germany 7,534
Netherlands 4,204
Sweden 2,722
Canada 2,599
Italy 2,462
Spain 2,437
Norway 2,199
Denmark 2,037
Switzerland 1,545
Belgium 1,463
Australia 1,460
Portugal 1,031
Austria 678
Finland 655
Ireland 607
Greece 465
Luxembourg 236
New Zealand 212

But when you take that same list and look at the donations as a percentage of each country’s Gross National Income (GNI), the U.S. suddenly winds up near the bottom.

Norway 0.87
Denmark 0.85
Luxembourg 0.83
Sweden 0.78
Netherlands 0.73
Portugal 0.63
Belgium 0.41
France 0.41
Switzerland 0.41
Ireland 0.39
United Kingdom 0.36
Finland 0.35
Germany 0.28
Canada 0.27
Australia 0.25
Spain 0.24
Austria 0.23
Greece 0.23
New Zealand 0.23
Japan 0.19
United States 0.17
Italy 0.15

So you could argue the point two ways. Yes, we donate more than any other country. But it is not that much when taken as a percentage of our GNI. It’s like comparing a watermelon with a bunch of grapes.
We could give more, but choose not to. So are we really being all that generous?
Or let’s put it another way, who is more generous? A person who makes $10,000 a year and gives $100 to charity. Or a person who makes $100,000,000 a year and gives $1,000?

Mark insists that the U.S. more than makes up for the paucity of its government assistance through private donations, but I have not seen a citation for this yet. He is welcome to add any links he finds in the comments.

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