The Times of India
The developed world does not give as much aid to the poor nations as it must if the millennium development goals (MDG) are tobe met. What’s more, by keeping world trade rules unfair, it robs the developing world of sums that three times as large as the aidflows. That’s what the UNDP’s Human Development Report (HDR) 2005 finds.Total aid from the developed to the developing in 2004 was about $78 billion, but the total value of subsidies given by thedeveloped countries to their farmers is $279 billion, which is a key factor in these countries dominating world exports inagriculture.The $78 billion of aid handed out in 2004 was an increase of $12 billion in real terms since 2000. That amounted to just 0.25% ofthe gross national income (GNI) of donor countries, once again an improvement on the 0.22% in 2000.However, that isn’t much to write home about considering donors gave 0.33% of their GNI in 1990 towards aid, before a rapiddecline in the late ‘90s.Compare today’s share of aid in GNI with earlier decades for OECD countries and it is a third lower today than in 1980 and justhalf of what it was in 1960. There have been new commitments towards increasing aid to 0.3% of GNI by 2006.Even that will only increase aid to $88 billion next year, well below the $135 billion that the UN Millennium Project estimates asrequired to meet the MDGs.Even the MDG target for aid is well below 0.7% of GNI that has been talked about since the late 60s, and had an initial 1975deadline. The deadline has since been pushed back to 2015, but there are few signs of even the revised deadline being met.Only five countries currently donate more than 0.7% of GNI, a list headed by Norway, and including Luxembourg, Sweden, theNetherlands and Portugal. Only one country from the G-7 figures in the list of the top ten donor countries by share of nationalincome.The US’ gives only 0.16% of its GNI as aid, the second worst of all donor countries after Italy, and even that is a markedimprovement from the 0.10% it stood at in 2000.Even as enough aid isn’t forthcoming, the other great leveler, global trade, hasn’t quite been able to narrow the gap between richand poor countries, as its proponents argued, says the HDR.Trade has increased, and exports account for about onefourth of global GDP today. However, high-income OECD countriescontinue to account for almost two-thirds of all exports, the same level as 1980.On the other hand, sub-Saharan Africa, which could most use the benefits of trade, has actually seen its share of exports beingreduced to less than half the 1980 level. If its export levels were the same as in 1980, it would have additional exports worth $119billion today, about five times the annual debt relief provided to the region.That decrease, in large part, is due to a 53% fall in the prices of commodities - a large chunk of sub-Saharan exports - between1997 and 2001.To add to all these problems, farm subsidies granted by high income countries make a mockery of the notion of a level globalplaying field for exports. Two-thirds of all people living on less than $1 a day live in rural areas, so agriculture is obviously acritical issue in terms of meeting the MDGs.While high-income countries spend $1 billion a year on agricultural aid to low-income countries, they spend the same amountevery day subsidising agricultural overproduction at home.Cotton farmers in Burkina Faso compete against US cotton manufacturers who receive more than $4 billion a year in subsidies,which is more than Burkina Faso’s national income, as the HDR points out.
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