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The Forum > Article Comments > Overseas aid belongs abroad > Comments

Overseas aid belongs abroad : Comments

By Tim O'Connor, published 28/4/2006

Foreign aid may be in the national interest, but that shouldn't be its major focus.

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Some sobering words from David Osterfeld, Associate Professor of Political Science at St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana.

>>The total net transfer of capital, private and public, from the West to the Third World between 1950 and 1985 amounted to the staggering sum of over $2 trillion in 1985 prices. Private investment accounted for about 25 percent of this total, but its share has fallen from about 40 percent in the 1950s to only about 16 percent in the 1980s. The $2 trillion . . . was enough to purchase not only all the companies on the New York Stock Exchange but, in addition, the entire American farm system. What has this massive transfer accomplished?"

"In practically every case, the influx of "aid" has been immediately followed by the emergence of a massive, unproductive, parasitic government bureaucracy whose very existence undercuts the recipients' ability for sustained economic growth.

Conversely, the most economically developed parts of the worldóWestern Europe, the United States, and Japanódeveloped without aid. Similarly, Hong Kong and Singapore, two of the most economically vibrant areas over the past two decades, received only negligible "aid."

Finally, Taiwan and South Korea are often touted as "foreign aid" success stories. However, their impressive economic performances began only after large-scale economic aid from the U.S. was discontinued.<<

Our $2 trillion has to some extent funded groups who now threaten our security. How much should we give to Hamas?
Posted by Sage, Friday, 28 April 2006 11:33:48 AM
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Surely sixty years of experience has demonstrated that aid does not work. Unless third world countries take steps to limit their population increase, any attempt at aid is just urinating into the breeze, and mainly carried out to give a warm inner glow to the protagonists (not those paying, who are usually taxpayers).

The whole idea of aid is supposed be that you share what you have in surplus with those who do not have enough. Does Australia have a surplus of foreign exchange? At the moment we are running the biggest balance of payments deficit in our history of around $50 billion per annum. By what moral imperative should we be required to borrow more money from Japan or China to give it to the third world? I consider that national interest must be the only criterion for aid, and I am comforted to see our aid used to underpin the pacific solution to the problem of illegal immigrants, as well as keeping the failed states around us from boiling over. Aid to anywhere else is just pandering to our egos.
Posted by plerdsus, Friday, 28 April 2006 12:02:37 PM
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Sage: Well put.

plerdsus: I agree almost entirely. The only concern I have is one mentioned in the article: that police and security action is as much a band-aid solution as what you point out.

I don't think foreign aid should be going to the "national interest" via corporate consultants. It won't help anyone in the long run.

I do think we need to promote our broad national interests. The reality is that there is a culture war occurring, and China, militant Islam, or even some of our western allies such as the U.S., will all promote their interests regardless of us. I have problems at times with what some of those interests may be, but that's another matter.

We need to make our aid conditional (and finite). I think we need to make it conditional on clear moves towards open and accountable government and business structures in the western, liberal tradition, rather than either 1) allowing our money to actually further the opposite, or 2) allowing corrupt or dodgy governments to get away with not addressing their own social problems justly because of our aid.

We need to place a very strong emphasis on the separation of church and state, especially on women's rights and education (because it is clear around the world that as these improve, a whole lot of problems decrease, including rampant population growth); and on environmental sustainability, because that means economic and political stability, which is good for everyone, including the anti-immigration crowd.

I like the idea of providing scholarships for future leaders of developing nations at our universities as hopefully, this should translate into an adoption of liberal values in their societies later on. Co-inciding with this, we need to promote similar values at the lower socio-economic level as part of our "development" programmes.

People may see this as some form of cultural imperialism, and it is. However, we don't have time to sit back and hope for these values to grow organically while we throw money to corrupt regimes and political extremists promote their own culture in our absence.
Posted by shorbe, Friday, 28 April 2006 12:55:38 PM
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Yes it should, the third owrld has a short memory and would shoot us in the back the first time a breakdown emerges.

Why waste the money, we can be bleeding hearts but i would rather my tax money (if not going to the national interest) going to local interests who need it, eg health, instead of often irresponsible third world governemnts.

Lets look after ourselves first, and treat others how they would treat us always
Posted by Realist, Friday, 28 April 2006 1:13:09 PM
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How often does foreign aid translate into bullets and guns. I agree with scholarships, training third worlders into medical people and then SENDING them back to practise the skills they have learned for the benefit of their own people.
Teaching birth control,respect for others rights including women's rights, hygiene,organic growing and fish farming.
Posted by mickijo, Friday, 28 April 2006 2:18:53 PM
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I disagree with the thrust of the article.

When I give to charity it is generally for foreigners as generally their plight is far more serious than the the plight faced by Australians. We should certainly encourage people to make private acts of giving focused on elliminating extreme poverty throughout the world.

However to argue that governments should spend tax payers dollars on anything other than the "national interest" is to argue that the basis of taxation is to serve the interests of somebody other than Australians
Posted by Terje, Friday, 28 April 2006 3:19:19 PM
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