NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 21, 2005

Last December's Asian tsunami produced incredible television clips and pulled at the heartstrings of millions of people living in rich countries. Private charities raised nearly $5 billion in aid for tsunami victims, while governments pledged more than $6 billion, says Foreign Policy (FP).

Yet, the tsunami is little more than a blip in the radar of international development. Otherwise preventable deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, childhood diarrhea and other diseases found mainly in poor countries create a death toll equivalent to last year's tsunami every month, says FP.

Moreover, pledges of foreign government aid should be kept in perspective:

  • Last year, the United States Treasury raised $1.87 billion in revenue from tariffs imposed on imports from the four major tsunami-affected countries -- Indonesia ($591 million), India ($522 million), Thailand ($492 million) and Sri Lanka ($262 million).
  • That's twice the $908 million in aid the U.S. Congress approved in May.
  • In effect, the United States will recoup its entire aid package to tsunami victims within six months.

If rich countries really want to commit themselves to improving the lives of tsunami victims, they should end these taxes and protectionist barriers as part of the current Doha Round of international trade negotiations, says FP.

Source: Editorial, "Ranking The Rich 2005: A Tidal Wave of Tariffs," Foreign Policy, Center for Global Development and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September/October 2005.

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