Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How generous was the United States in 2008?

What controversial US industry funnels more money out of the developing world than Washington provides in development aid?

Conventional wisdom, stateside, says the US is a relatively generous country.  As countries meet in Bangkok this week to hash out a global agreement for tackling climate change, America's generosity to the developing world needs to be put in perspective.

According to the OECD:
In 2008, net ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) by the United States was USD 26 billion, representing an increase of 16.8% in real terms. 
NYT (h/t GG) reported on Sept. 9 that in 2008:
Despite a recession that knocked down global arms sales last year, the United States expanded its role as the world’s leading weapons supplier.  The United States signed weapons agreements valued at $37.8 billion in 2008, or 68.4 percent of all business in the global arms bazaar, up significantly from American sales of $25.4 billion the year before.

Italy was a distant second, with $3.7 billion in worldwide weapons sales in 2008, while Russia was third with $3.5 billion in arms sales last year . . . The United States was the leader not only in arms sales worldwide, but also in sales to nations in the developing world, signing $29.6 billion in weapons agreements with these nations, or 70.1 percent of all such deals.
American arms dealers pull more money out of the developing world ($30 billion) than the US gives back in aid ($26 billion).  These figures really put US generosity in perspective.
Also consider the fact that EU countries  -- the EU economy being of a size similar to that of the US -- gave three times more ODA ($70 billion) in 2008 than the US.   Both US and EU agriculture subsidies  put the developing world at an economic disadvantage.  It is estimated that farm subsidies cost poor countries about USD$50 billion a year in lost agricultural exports.   The above photo, by Jotman, shows a Laotian girl at work in a rice field.   Thirty-seven percent of Laos is covered in unexploded ordinance.  

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