NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 4, 2005

The other day, a United Nations official accused the United States of being "stingy" in terms of aid to tsunami victims in South Asia. After criticism from the State Department, the official clarified his position. Americans are not being stingy in helping tsunami victims, only stingy in terms of overall foreign aid as compared to other countries.

Bruce Bartlett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, says the facts show otherwise:

  • According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, in 2003, the world's major countries gave $108.5 billion in combined foreign aid.
  • Of this, the United States contributed $37.8 billion or 35 percent of the total.
  • The next largest foreign aid contributor was The Netherlands, which gave $12.2 billion, following two years in which it was actually a net recipient of foreign aid.

Another thing one notices is that the foreign aid data are only for "official" (i.e., government) aid. The data are sketchy, but by all accounts Americans are far more generous in terms of charitable contributions than the citizens of any other country, explains Bartlett.

  • In 2003, charitable giving amounted to 8.6 billion pounds or 0.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the United Kingdom, according to the Charities Aid Foundation.
  • In comparison, charitable giving amounted to $241 billion or 2.2 percent of GDP in the United States, according to the American Association of Fundraising Counsel.

In short, the charge of stinginess is unfounded. The United States carries much of the world on its back, providing other nations with security, aid and much of their investment and income. It also pays for a fourth of all the salaries of U.N. bureaucrats, says Bartlett.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, "Ungrateful U.N. Bureaucrat's Charges Are Unfounded," National Center for Policy Analysis, January 4, 2005.


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