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Calculating the theoretical number of mosquito nets necessary to protect every poor person is easy. The real challenge is getting the nets into people’s hands and getting people to use them properly.
The illusion that increased foreign transfers can buy development is reemerging. Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven wealthiest states have proposed writing off Third World debts — while extending new loans. The Blair government in Great Britain is pushing to double official aid.
Although the Bush Administration has refused to back Tony Blair’s proposal for a $50 billion bond issue to provide a new source of international assistance, the President, too, has bought into the misbegotten notion that more aid is better. The administration wants to reward its allies in Iraq, such as Poland and Ukraine, with tens of millions in aid. The administration would provide $200 million to the new Palestinian Authority, even though past monies have been looted by the leadership and paid to the families of suicide bombers.
President Bush also has proposed to up contributions to the World Bank’s International Development Association and double funds for the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation, once a scourge of foreign aid waste, now is pushing Congress to dump more taxpayer resources into assistance programs, on the theory that aid officials will do better this time. Never mind that Third World governments haven’t used all the aid that was approved last year; Congress should give the MCA another $3 billion. (The President initially wanted to spend $5 billion next year.)
Still, a world in need remains. There is no easy answer, though globalization probably offers the greatest hope. Western investment and trade have helped lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in China and India. Even the poorest states, such as Bangladesh, have found a glimmer of hope through export trades, such as textiles. The toughest jobs in that industry offer better opportunities than those available elsewhere.
The nations hardest-hit by the tsunami pay more annually in Western import duties — roughly $2 billion by Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand last year, for instance — than they recently received in aid. Thus, eliminating Western protectionist barriers is the surest method of aiding growth abroad.
Foreign assistance can help, but it needs to operate as aid rather than as hindrance. That is most likely to occur with private programs. Although totals are hard to come by, the U.S. Agency for International Development estimated $33.6 billion in private outlays in 2000.
When the UN’s relief coordinator Jan Egeland accused the U.S. of being “stingy” after the tsunami, he was thinking only of official transfers. Yet Americans had privately contributed even more than their government.
Private aid shows up in many forms. Some monies run through large charitable groups. The Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam America, Save the Children, World Relief, and CARE all raised tens of millions of dollars in the aftermath of the tsunami. Many such organizations support ongoing development projects around the world.
Big foundations and companies also contribute. The Gates Foundation supports extensive AIDS treatment programs throughout Africa and recently announced a $750 million grant to increase access of poor children to vaccines.
The pharmaceutical giant Merck works with the Gates Foundation, providing pharmaceuticals for AIDS treatment in Botswana. Pfizer, an even bigger drugmaker, donated $25 million worth of medicine and $10 million in cash to aid tsunami victims in Southeast Asia.
Proctor & Gamble has developed the PuR Water Purifier which makes contaminated water drinkable. (Each powder-filled packet cleans 2.5 gallons of water.) The purifier is useful most anywhere in the developing world, but especially in disaster areas. P&G has worked with non-governmental organizations and faith-based groups, such as Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse, to distribute its product at cost. In the aftermath of the tsunami the company donated millions of packets and made millions more inexpensively available, providing enough purifiers to clean more than 150 million liters of drinking water.
But size is not everything. Most nimble and creative are small organizations like CFI. Devoted to saving individual lives rather than entire societies, CFI collected materials for Nias before large organizations were even thinking about the island.
CFI runs orphanages and schools for ethnic Karen refugees from Burma (or Myanmar) now living in Thai refugee camps. The group also builds simple clinics, termed “freedom hospitals,” and trains medics to work inside Burma, where the Burmese military routinely destroys villages and terrorizes residents.
In the aftermath of extensive Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia’s Moluccan islands, CFI provided aid to refugees in camps on nearby islands. And the organization is currently raising funds to create a training center for handicapped (often blind) Christian converts in the largely Islamic nation of Bangladesh. They suffer what amounts to a dual disability, ensuring that they endure both public and private hostility.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?