Monday, January 03, 2005

Aid to Asia

The latest news I've heard is that the rest of the world has pledged some $2 billion in aid to southern Asia. Indeed, with the way that donations and pledges are still flooding in, I wouldn't be surprised to see that figure double over the next several weeks.

Still, I wonder about the ultimate fairness of targetting so much aid to one set of victims. Assume that 1 million people are victims of the tsunami. Given that average incomes in that part of the world are merely a few thousand dollars a year (e.g., Thailand), $2 billion dollars (or more) is enough to give every single person 6 months' to a year's salary. Granted, all of that aid is desperately needed, and will hopefully be well-spent to buy food and water, rebuild towns and infrastructure, etc. But at the same time, there are people in Africa who desperately need assistance as well, and whose needs might be slighted now that everyone is focusing on southern Asia. (I recall that some charities complained immediately after September 11 that their donations fell off dramatically because everyone was focusing on New York.)

What I'm saying is aimed at myself as much as at others: I was moved to give money to a couple of charities directing their efforts at southern Asia. But how many people do I routinely ignore, whether in Africa or elsewhere, who have needs that are just as desperate?

Stuart Buck


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may want to add Created Equal to:

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I thought much the same thing during 9-11 where some relatives of victims got obscenely large checks.

I believe the Tsunami relief is different. For one thing, aid is needed NOW or more people will die (disease, starvation, etc). Secondly, the infrastructure has been washed away and needs massive rebuilding. Lastly, when the infrastructure is rebuilt, there is reasonable hope to think that these areas can function.

Africa is a different story. I feel many people think that aid to Africa is primarily wasted. At best it ends up in Swiss bank accounts, at worst it subsidizes murderers and despots who use aid distribution as a weapon. Frankly, aid to Africa might be making many of their problems worse.

The tsunami aid really isn't about raising people out of poverty- it is about saving poor peoples lives.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Instead of not giving because it's "unfair", why not give now and then give in the future to any of many charities that act worldwide, e.g. Doctors w/out Borders, Internat'l Red Cross, Save the Children, etc. Wouldn't it be an unlikely gift if this tragedy could open people's eyes to the suffering of the whole world?

12:13 AM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

Who said anything about "not giving"? Not me (read the last paragraph of my post). The message is: Give here, but give elsewhere as well.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets see, $60 to repair the damage, 2 billion for ...what? I smell a huge scam in the making.
Figure 100 milion, tops, to feed folks for awhile.
What an utter waste. That 2 billion could be used to buy another aircraft carrier for the US, which would be a much more useful thing than some UN graft and bribe taking. How about five small civillian carriers, stationed around the globe for emergencys like this?
Nah, too smart.


2:36 PM  

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