JOHN Robertson’s reference to Western taxpayers’ generosity (“Pitfalls of Western Aid”, Zimbabwe Independent, January 16) invites challenge.
If the question, how
much do the rich countries give to the much poorer ones? is asked, the responses may be US$200 million, 500 million, 5 billion?
The answer is nothing. Third world countries are not net capital gainers. More money travels out of Africa than it receives.
The UN has an overseas aid target of 0,7% of GNP. A seemingly small amount? In 1995, only the Netherlands and Sweden gave at this level. The US level was a mere 0,22% of GNP.
Glossy brochures put out by some Western governments on their aid programmes highlight the positive spin-off effects in the home country of aid giving.
A US aid worker in Kenya exposed the nonsense that surrounds Western aid. While addressing international development graduates at Cornell University he said the development aid industry’s greatest success has been to provide good jobs for Westerners with graduate degrees from institutions like Cornell.
Simply put – and yes too simply – aid is a conscience donation by rich countries to make up for the privileged position they enjoy on the quality of life pyramid. A position attained, in no small measure, by historical advantage and on the back of third world natural and human resources.
Witness their lack of political will to remove or reduce agricultural subsidies to their own farmers. A move which would give poor farmers in the third world some hope of competing on a slightly more level playing field.
Rich countries want to play the capitalism game, but on their terms. The failure of trade talks in Cancun last year showed the third world is serious about challenging the rich nations’ hypocrisy on trade issues.
An undeclared conspiracy by developed countries to simply alleviate poverty is well within the realms of possibility.
It is easier to give out aid than be bothered with the real challenges that a successful third world, which is abundant with culture, intellect, skills and determination, would present.
Rich countries do not have the political will, at this moment in time, to allow the third world to fulfil its potential.
The idea of rich-nation taxpayer generosity is misleading. It is not that great in the grand scheme of things – ie overall GNP – and it is to their advantage.
The perception of the developed world as avuncular, long suffering and generous, is a false one.