How much do we gain (or lose) by helping other countries financially?

I read in articles all the time about the U.S. government or other countries giving monetary aid to other countries often into the billions of dollars. The debate is what do we gain or lose from doing this? There are probably many different angles to look at this question. In an economic sense we are spending money that might help another country’s economic situation and in the long-term hopefully help our own as well. Another gain might be purely one of image, it makes us look better if we help other countries and may help us later down the road in relations with that country. Of course I’m not ruling out altruistic reasons either. Just so you know I’m talking about aid, and not a loan that the country will have to pay back.

Another thing to take into conseideration is that sometimes aid is given with certain conditions, a lot of the time, with the condition that the aid be used to purchase American made goods and services. So the aid money helps subsidize American corporations, which directly helps our economy.

I’ve just finished Lords of Poverty, in it Graham Hancock argues, rather convincingly, that government funded aid programs are nothing but self sustaining bureaucratic entities that at best fail to address a countries woes and more often at worst inflict new ones. A memorable quote I’ll paraphrase is: “Where you see foreign aid, you’ll see foreign specialists directing foreign employees, using foreign equipment, to solve problems discussed in foreign boardrooms with foreign mindsets.” The last 150 pages are specific instances justifying the above quote and each one makes you want to throw the book against a wall…as I did often. Paved with Good Intentions is next on my reading list after I’ve taken a month to calm down.

They are economic hit men. They go into a country and do economic predictions of what new projects will do for a country. They inflate the numbers and convince them how good it will be for the economies. They use a few wealthy people and run the money through them. A company like Halliburton makes millions building the project. The country is unable to repay since the economic effect is far less than predicted. So a few rich people get real rich. The wealth of the rest is spent hopelessly paying back loans beyond their means. This lets us get political inroads. They are in our debt and we can demand political votes in the UN and force them to allow our corporations to set up as they wish.
Read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. John Perkins. True disgust will follow.

I would add that most 3rd-World nations have terrible credit-they’ve been fleeced by corrupt dictators, or the cotton crop has been mortgaged to fund weapons purchases, etc. Then the World bank comes around with funding for a dam or something-it gets built (and enriched halliburton and the the other contractors)-and millions of peasants are displaced.

It’s worth pointing out that foreign aid constitutes about 1% of the federal budget. Whether it’s effective or not is a different argument, but the amount of money we’re spending on it is tiny.

If foreign aid helps develop a country’s economy and helps to stabilize the government, then the rewards are a lot higher than the expense.

Having another reliable, wealthy trading partner is much more important than a few billion dollars worth of infrastructure.

It is not just foreign aid. It includes I.M.F. and World Bank. These are arms of our corporate leaders.

You don’t understand. Whats being done isn’t helping and all those involved know it, expect it, and plan for it. The only true goal for government funded aid programs (USAID, Oxfam, World Bank, etc.) is to steal.

A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking about some real money.

In fairness, one percent of a budget isn’t a “Tiny” amount of money. One percent of my income is a lot of money to me; any business would be concerned about a one percent drop. And the attitude that “well, it’s just another 0.23%” is how government budgets become so bloated.

A good illustration of what we’ve all just said came up yesterday on CNN. Seems Condi Rice is going around the Middle East saying, ‘What Iran? You don’t want to play ball? Ok. IT’S CRAZY RAMBO CONDI’S GOIN OUTTA BUISNESS SALE! WE GOT TANKS, PLANES, MISSLES AND SMALL ARMS FOR FREE TO ANYONE NOT IRAN! WE’LL EVEN DELIVER!’

The problem isn’t with aid, its that aid is often linked to short term political aims- Governments are frequently willing to give generously to their “enemies, enemies” even though this may not provide benifits to civilians at all- often what is classed is aid is often one step short of bribery- which isn’t a reflection on whether giving aid is worthwhile, it’s a reflection on our governments.

For example rather than give money to proven methods of AIDS prevention the US chose to link money to programmes linked to abstinence rather than condoms. This doesn’t mean that AIDS prevention efforts are worthless, just that its less effective when linked to political ideology.

I’ve never read the book pointed out by gonzomax, but it does seem that it ignores all the good aid can do. Try reading Millions Saved: Proven Successes in Global Health, it describes situations such as Egypt when in the 1970’s almost 1/2 of all infants were dying from forms of diarrheal disease as the dominant diet lacked important minerals (I can’t remember why right now), an initiative co-funded by the USA cut that by 82%.

Eliminating Small Pox, and major cuts in rates of Polio would also have been impossible without foreign aid.

Even loans can be useful China used money from the World Bank to carve a chunk out of Tuberculosis infections in the Shanghai area- which has probably played a part in why the region has developed so fast.

So don’t be so hard on aid, the trick is to separate actual development aid from govenment kickbacks.

Acting as World policeman because Western liberals find alien cultures offensive has caused more trouble and hurt more people then if the status quo had been left in place.
Saddams regime was certainly evil but our meddling has made things a thousand times worse for the inhabitants and acted as a recruiting poster for Islamism for thousands of previously uninterested Muslims.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Western intent were it angered many arabs and the like because of the arrogance implicit in poking our noses into something that really speaking was none of our business and trying to impose our own political culture on peoples that didnt want it.

Around the world there are many societies that are tribal based,ethnic based or even family based. where financial sweetners are a respectable and expected bargaining counter,where oversensitivety to the possibility of offending the locals is sneered at as weakness and where apologising for errors without being pressured to do so is considered to be an admission that you are the inferior party in bargaining which is sometimes felt to be akin to not being favoured by god.(Ikid you not)

Where intervention hasnt actively made things worse it hasnt actually changed the situation,its no good just sending in "targets " (as the peacekeeping forces often become)to areas where oppression or even genocide are happening ,you have to think things through and eliminate the source of the problem which may entail changing the mind set of some groups ,which isnt easy ,rather then seeking a military solution.

But we cant just sit by and do nothing I hear you say!Well yes we can if the alternative has no real effect on the situation except to get our people killed.
Vietnam solved nothing,Somalia and the others except to make it look as if the politicians were DOING something.

And now the knee jerk reaction to Dhaffurr.
Why is this mission going to be any more successful then Afghan or Iraq?

As to peaceful foreign aid ,that which doesnt disappear into Swiss bank accounts or is pissed down the drain by the recipients causes a dependant culture mind set.
Whats the point in seriously trying to solve our problems ourselves when we know that do gooding Westerners are going to keep bailing us out every time we have a crisis with money,food and equipment?

At the last G8 summit thirty BILLION dollars was promised to Africa and the reaction from African statesmen and Western Liberals ?
Huh is that all?much of that had been promised already,the West needs to get its finger out
and start donating some SERIOUS aid.
The African continent has some of the most fertile land on earth and is choc full of valuable minerals ,its obscene that we are having to send aid at all from our no more fertile or mineraled continents.

And my final point is the strategic thinking behind aid projects.
We reduce or eliminate say,Malaria in certain areas and save thousand upon thousands of lives .
But the local population has routinely been having by our standards very,very large families because they know that many of their children will die.
But when the incidence of early death in their society is drasticly reduced because of disease control they carry on having the same number of children because thats what theyve always done .

In spite of having been taught more efficient but still low tech methods of agriculture (contour ploughing/plowing etc.)They carry on with the traditional farming practices because thats what their fathers etc.etc. have always done.
And now large numbers of people start starving to death.
We start sending food aid but alot of it gets stolen or diverted or put up for sale so the locals start killing each other to get their share and to reduce the demand.

Another case in point.
There cant be many southern Africans nowadays who arent aware of the symptons of Aids
and how its transmitted after the massive and far reaching education campaigns designed to reach even the lowest common denominator and millions of prophalactics have been supplied for free.

But not only do the men refuse to wear them because its “unmanly” but they continue to have unprotected sex when they KNOW that they are infected but they just dont give a shit .
And then we in the West get demands ,and yes I did say demands ,to supply them with much more expensive and harder to come by, retroviral drugs"for the women and children"that they didnt give a rats arse about when it came to using a condom.

Maybe a bit of isolationism might wake them up out of the dream theyre living in at present.
I hope so because you cant help those who WONT help themselves.

Let’s all calm down a bit here.

First off, foreign aid schemes are not all the same. There are good ones and there are bad ones.

Second off, the goal of any government funded aid program is to help the country offering the aid.

Now there are plenty of programs that help small sustainable projects based on community needs. These do a world of good. I know people who literally would not be alive today if not for some of these programs.

Then there are big projects- dams, hospitals, that sort of thing. These things are more often of mixed usefulness. There are quite a few disaster stories. However, I owe the fact that me (and the factory in my village, and everyone else in my state) has electricity to a Chinese built dam. So I’m not going to complain too loudly.

The problem is not aid itself, it is when large projects are created without community input or thoughts towards sustainablity by powerful governments in order to get something (usually rights to natural resources) from corrupt governments. This situation sucks.

Lust4Life, I think you need to calm down about Africa. The people are not the leaders. The vast majority of folks here are trying to work, tend their farms, support their families, follow their religion and live another year.

You may think you know more about how to run their lifestyle, but I don’t think you do. For example, large families are important to working farms, something that even fairly urban people do for a large chunk of their substinance. Basically, any kid over four or so brings in more food/income than they consume.

Likewise, HIV positive people who continue to infect others are widely ostricisized and sometimes subject to vigilante actions. Furthermore, women are an important recipient of anti-retrovirals because they are affected by AIDS in much greater numbers than men.

Yes I did rant a bit there but its because Ive seen at first hand the total fuckups going on over there and it seriously makes me despair ,it seems rightly or wrongly that as soon as the aid workers have got things moving quite smoothly in one area and move on to a different location to get that fired up, that the area that they have just left grinds to a halt and is back to square one forcing them to go back and do it all again.

As to knowing how to run Africans lifestyles better then they do themselves quite the contrary,the point Im making is that we in the West should stop jumping in at every opportunity to solve the locals problems for them with a quick fix and let the locals work out their own solutions in their own time with their own resources which might take a bit longer but the solutions will hopefully be permament ,and not just papering over the cracks as we seem to be doing at the moment.

I havent been to your part of the continent yet but I can assure you that it is commonplace in some quite large regions of Africa for the women to fetch the water,fetch the firewood ,cook the food ,look after the kids ,take the livestock out to pasture ,tend the crops,bring the livestock back and do any other jobs that need doing .

And the men?
They spend the days with their buddies drinking beer and rotgut though they may sometimes bring the livestock in from pasture if the women are snowed under.
They remind me of drones in a beehive .

So while it may be true that in your area any kid over four brings in more food then it eats , it most certainly isnt true many places elsewhere on your continent.
We’re talking useless mouths here not of children but of grown men.

And the corruption and the "look after number one and to hell with the rest "attitude is not just an attribute of the leaders but seems to permeate through all levels of society.

Me first,family second ,clan third ,tribe fourth.
Whatever I have surplus I’ll consume/spend now and worry about the future when it arrives.

The aid workers have planted saplings to increase shade when they grow and cut down ground evaporation?
Never mind as soon as they are gone we’ll cut them down for firewood and let the goats forage on the rest!
The lands seriously overgrazed and is suffering desertification ?
Well sorry mate I get my status from the number of cattle I own no matter how scrawny and useless they are so I’ll just keep increasing their numbers for as long as I can.

Seed corn for next seasons crop?

What the hell we’ll eat it or sell it now.

Mass starvation?
I know lets buy a ship load of scotch whisky for our independance celebrations !
And while we’re about it why not have our Mig jets fly around spending a fortune in aviation fuel even though we arent at war and there is no likelyhood of air combat if there was one.

A few million to repair the east African coastal highway?
No guvnor its all gone ,I dont know where ,er no we havent actually started work on it or even hired anyone yet.
I could go on …and on and on ,these are all real occurrences .
Thats why I despair.

:rolleyes: We spend $600 billion a year thinking about how to blow up other countries and defend our own from these evil foreigners, before war funds. 1% is a drop in the bucket. It’s just a big bucket.