Former pop star Bob Geldof's recent claim that the weirdest politicians sometimes gave the necessary support to Africa, and that Bush was the best US president in this regard since Kennedy, was greeted with astonishment by aid experts at the time and has subsequently won little if any support.
To understand why, just read the first 3 items beloe, taken from today's Letters page in The Guardian, and the incisive IPS article which follows, based on a report from two Washington-based economic think-tanks. The report shows that not only will Bush's promised aid increases be far more modest than announced, but that U.S. aid remains well below historical standards and far below other donor countries:
"Under the budget, development aid spending as a share of the economy would equal an estimated 0.123 percent in 2008, virtually the same as the 0.124 percent level forecast in 2004.
That means that for the next several years, aid as a share of the economy is likely to be lower than it ever was in the 50 years from 1946-1996, and well below one-half the level of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) now provided by the typical donor country, estimated at around 0.30 percent.
"The United States would still be at the bottom of the barrel among all donors in its spending on development aid (excluding military aid) as a share of the economy," concludes the report.
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2002 Washington contributed 0.12 percent of its economy to development aid. This was the lowest share among 22 nations examined, with the second lowest country, Italy, contributing 0.20 percent of its economy.
*Geldof's comments 'ignore the appalling reality' - 3 letters
*Washington's AIDS Promises Misleading - IPS article
Geldof given instant aid
The Guardian, Thursday May 29, 2003
Bob Geldof's comments on US food aid to Ethiopia are either extremely naive or aimed at embarrassing the European Union into faster action. Either way, they ignore the appalling reality: the US frequently pledges food aid which then takes the form of unwanted American grain surpluses, produced using massive agricultural subsidies.
I saw at first hand in Ethiopia in the mid 1990s the effects of this inappropriate "assistance", which destroyed local grain markets and exacerbated the crisis that local farmers faced. What can help is funds to purchase grains locally in the short term, and help to establish and manage emergency food stocks in the long term - things the US administration is not particularly interested in.
Dr Francis Watkins
Edinburgh resource centre, University of Edinburgh
Bob Geldof is right to point out the seriousness of the HIV/Aids pandemic that is blighting the future of Africa, but the Bush administration's response looks suspiciously like bilateral self-interest ('Bush has the most positive approach to Africa since Kennedy', May 28).
If the US administration was serious about battling the appalling impact of infectious disease, it would not have vetoed a multilateral deal in December last year that would have enabled poor countries such as Ethiopia to waive patent rights for a list of drugs to fight public health emergencies such as HIV/Aids.
At the eleventh hour of negotiations, US vice president Dick Cheney sprang to the defence of the powerful US pharmaceutical lobby and vetoed the deal on the grounds that too many drug treatments would be made available to too many countries.
If the Bush administration wants to alleviate the plight of those struck down by disease, War on Want believes it should agree to waive drug patents for a meaningful list of treatments for all least developed and middle income countries.
Chief executive, War on Want
Bob Geldof considers that George Bush is doing as much for Africa as John Kennedy? Kennedy continued the vicious US policy towards the Congo which saw the murder of Patrice Lumumba and interventions that led to the imposition of the dictator Mobutu. Kennedy did nothing as the apartheid regime entrenched racism in South Africa and murdered opponents.
But given that Bush imposes debt on Africa and keeps the price of Aids drugs high, perhaps there is a greater similarity between Bush and Kennedy than Geldof intended to suggest.
Washington's AIDS Promises Misleading
Thu May 22, 8:52 AM ET
Emad Mekay,InterPress Service
WASHINGTON, May 21 (IPS) - The Bush administration's loudly trumpeted recent announcements of development aid hikes coupled with more money to fight HIV/AIDS globally do not match budgetary realities and may translate into far smaller increases than anticipated, say two economic think-tanks.
In a report released on Tuesday, the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, both based in Washington, say the promised aid increases will be far more modest than announced, and that U.S. aid remains well below historical standards and far below other donor countries.
"The administration was quick to make large announcements and has been much slower in following through and ensuring that those announcements translate into actual new spending on the ground," said Brian Deese, program associate at the CGD. "I think this is more of a reality check...given adequate pressure and considerable bipartisan support in Congress, we could still see positive development," he added.
The report comes only days before Congress is to send back legislation to President George W. Bush* responding to his State of the Union speech request for $15 billion over five years to fight the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa and the Caribbean.
That request came on top of Bush's announcement in March 2002 of the largest increase in development aid since the Kennedy administration (1961-63), through a proposed hike of $10 billion for the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). The promised increases were hailed as steps to fundamentally transform U.S. development policy and maximize its impact in the developing world, and received positive reviews from aid agencies, development groups and some civil society organizations.
Yet the new report reveals that although the administration's original proposal for the MCA called for a whopping $10 billion over three years to reach and sustain annual funding of $5 billion a year starting in 2006, Bush's actual request for the MCA in the 2004-2006 budget is only $4 billion.
"The administration's budget proposes funding the Millennium Challenge Account at levels far less than it has announced," says the report, whose authors say they used data from Office of Management and Budget, the Congressional Budget Office**, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). "This is only 40 percent of the administration's initial public commitment," it adds. On top of that, some of the $4 billion would be spent after 2006.
To further undermine the administration's MCA forecast, the report quotes figures from the Congressional Budget Office--a usually optimistic body--that estimate that actual MCA spending from 2004 through 2006 will be $1.7 billion, or 17 percent of the president's initial public commitment.
When the budget was released in early February, some administration officials suggested that the request was an error, and that the figures for 2005 and 2006 would be corrected to reflect the increase to $5 billion dollars a year. But the 11-page report notes that till now, "the numbers have not been corrected."
"If the administration does clarify this issue, it will need to reduce resources proposed for other areas in the budget or build in a higher expected deficit," the report adds.
The disparity between rhetoric and reality also extends to promised funds to battle AIDS. In his State of the Union speech Bush pledged $10 billion in new spending over the next five years, but the report says the president originally requested only $450 million for his new HIV/AIDS initiative for 2004.
The request, says the report, left unclear how that figure would be raised over the coming five years to reach the much-touted $10 billion. Again here, the CBO dampens the forecast, estimating that only $45 million (of the originally proposed $450 million) is likely to be spent on AIDS in 2004.
With the fine print in place, U.S. aid spending totals a mere 0.12 percent of the economy, or about 12 cents of every $100, well below the amount devoted to aid from the end of World War II through 1996. Measuring aid as a share of the economy is the standard approach used in international comparisons.
The report says that after adjusting for inflation, the president's budget, plus a recent wartime supplemental request of 2.5 billion dollars to help reconstruct Iraq***, would together result in an increase in development aid spending from 2003 to 2004 of five percent in real terms, continuing a string of recent increases. "But because this spending has been so low in recent years, and fell so much in the 1990s, the proposed level would still be meagre by historical standards, particularly when viewed as a share of the economy and as a share of all government spending," it adds.
Still, the proposed increases merely reflect expected economic growth, the report points out. Under the budget, development aid spending as a share of the economy would equal an estimated 0.123 percent in 2008, virtually the same as the 0.124 percent level forecast in 2004. That means that for the next several years, aid as a share of the economy is likely to be lower than it ever was in the 50 years from 1946-1996, and well below one-half the level of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) now provided by the typical donor country, estimated at around 0.30 percent.
"The United States would still be at the bottom of the barrel among all donors in its spending on development aid (excluding military aid) as a share of the economy," concludes the report. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, in 2002 Washington contributed 0.12 percent of its economy to development aid. This was the lowest share among 22 nations examined, with the second lowest country, Italy, contributing 0.20 percent of its economy.
But Deese, one of the report's authors, warned against interpreting the paper as a call to simply increase foreign aid. He said the Bush administration should continue to pressure developing countries to make aid more effective. "It's not necessarily that the U.S. should immediately increase its foreign aid budget to some set level, but in fact it should continue to put some real meat behind a commitment (by developing nations) to do more and do it well."
"European governments should join -- not hinder -- the great cause of ending hunger in Africa" - George W. Bush
"U.S. aid remains well below historical standards and far below other donor countries." http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/oneworld/20030522/wl_oneworld /118151053610546
"But this is far more than a food fight. In a very real sense, it's the same struggle recently demonstrated in Iraq" - Dennis Avery in 'Biotechnology, Iraq and the Shape of Tomorrow's World', Center for Global Food Issues, May 23, 2003
"The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80% of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms. Foreign assistance programs have helped create major markets for agricultural goods, created new markets for American industrial exports and meant hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans." - USAID website