With the best of intentions in mind: Are we REALLY helping out when we do this?
I agree that, in principle, foreign aid has it’s merits and I believe that our financial assistance has saved or helped to save hundreds of thousands of lives over the years. For that I am proud to be from a country who shares its wealth. However, that’s not the issue that I am asking about.
Some of the facts:
**Depending on which agency or group you talk to Canada, last year, contributed approximately 6.0 billion dollars to various foreign aid programs around the globe. But then I think about how many mental health beds & connected services that would support especially for our veterans and our homeless. Or putting food in little people’s bellies not to mention our First Nations People and their needs. How about providing life saving medications that people can’t afford because of the greed of the Big Pharma folks and the lack of ‘balls’ of our government to intervene. But that’s another blog for another day.
Many of the recipients of our largesse are deserving no doubt but some, those who collect the greater sums, are not quite as deserving in my mind. Some of the Middle East countries for instance. (look at the chart at the top of this page). How are we helping them? They allow us-meaning the free world who supply military support for the various wars we/they are fighting-to operate camps on their soil. Some would call that ‘rent’. At the same time these same nations allow militant groups that have dedicated their existence to destroying the US and any/all others who would try to defeat them, to train their soldiers on that same soil and to protect them while they are there. Kinda seems like some recipients are ‘eating from both sides of the trough’.
But in a perfect world there are many upsides to foreign aid some of them being:
–Many citizens of the countries who receive foreign aid get the health benefits of vaccines and treatments for illnesses that would other wise kill them.
–Foreign aid presents opportunities to develop small industrial businesses that allow for more global commerce and therefore more money into their national coffers and a bit of money into the pockets of those who are able to secure employment.
–There are opportunities to learn more efficient ways of growing food and maximizing their natural resources. This is supported by the idea that at some point these opportunities will lead to more independence. Unfortunately that progress, to date, has not yielded as much growth as hoped.
–One big ‘pro’ is that foreign aid can provide ‘almost immediate’ results regarding the building of more effective sanitation facilities and fresh water stations therefore reducing disease. It also can promote better medical services for child birth and basic surgical procedures that could otherwise be quite dangerous.
But there are drawbacks as well. Here are some of those:
–Much of the money that is designated to particular countries for particular projects or causes seldom makes it to it’s destination. By the time it goes through the different sets of procedural and official hands there is often not much left to actually go to the place where it would do the most good. Although we understand that’s ‘just the way business is done’ many from the ‘have’ world are less inclined to make a rich war lord richer or a dictator more wealthy.
–Although it may not be our intention we, as a giving nation and for all the right reasons for giving, may actually be creating a dependence on our aid. Some recipients begin to expect that it will never end. It has become a part of their income yearly. This can create a lack of vision and dimishing impetus to the point of stifling their own growth and development.
–Once the money is released and the credit arranged we really have no idea of where it is going. In some cases it is going to develop bigger and more powerful armies. In some cases some of it goes to the militias and the terrorists who also need support to continue.
So there are some serious pros and cons to foreign aid. I am not saying that we don’t do it-that we don’t contribute to it but I do think that if we are going to send it we have an obligation to our own citizens to know where and on what it is being used and to make sure that our contributions aren’t coming back to be used against us in some way. Who and what is being funded? If we are going to contribute then we have a say in how that is managed. I understand the dangers of that as well but strings need to be attached.
Perhaps much of our aid money can be in the form of sending expertise, building supplies and machinery. We could train some of the engineers there how to do things quicker or more substantially. We could ask some of our own unemployed to help build their power plants or their water filtration systems with our aid money. I’m saying that I am no longer able to support the idea that we just write a cheque and move on.
Anyways, that’s how I see it.
Comments and ideas are always welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org OR jimcloughley.com
Please pass this along to friends and family. All the best and thanks for stopping by–JIm