-för en 'bättre värld'
Lately, in the year that has passed with economic crises and crumbling economies in the western world, or perhaps even the last months, there have been an upsurge of talk about the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – countries’ contribution to economic aid to low-income countries compared to that of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC). These five are perhaps the biggest economies of those that just a decade ago were counted as ‘developing countries’, which we today would call middle-income. Strangely, it is them and not the high-income western world that seem to provide the most effective aid.
An article in yesterday’s the Guardian (online) talked about how the US uses aid in order to win rather geopolitical benefits (and the US’ four biggest aid recipients are Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Haiti, not forgetting that Egypt was the second largest Middle Eastern aid recipient before the 2011 Revolution), whilst the BRICS (and especially China) uses economic aid to establish trade relationships. Not to be too americophobic, but one should really question the US’ seemingly conditional aid policies. Why does a relatively well-off country such as Israel belong to the top four recipients whilst poverty-stricken nations such as Somalia, the Congo, and Zimbabwe are not amongst these? In addition: I doubt that Pakistan and Afghanistan would be amongst the top receivers if the US would not have invaded the latter in 2002.
Obviously, economy and politics are heavily interlinked. Economy, though, includes a wide variety of aspects. For instance, the article says that e.g. Brazil invests mainly in African technology whilst China invests in infrastructure:
”In some important ways it can be more useful to separate western (US and Europe) style aid from eastern (Korean, Japanese and Chinese). The latter are generally less interested in policy conditionality and more focused on infrastructure, while the former have a strong tendency to conditionalise aid”.
South Korea and Japan spend about 40% on infrastructure whilst China around 60%, but among the western countries there is only Germany that have a percentage over 15% in the same. This, the article suggests – and I agree – is probably based in that the western world has a focus not on rebuilding society per se but are acting after ”colonial” interests when the BRICS are doing this in order to gain economically and build independent and economies to trade with.
However, it is easy to generalise. China and India both are in dire need of external resources. These two are the two perhaps most rapidly developing economies in the world and although they are vast countries they need more resources: sounds very colonial to me. Furthermore, China puts pressure on aid recipients to deny recognition of Taiwan (a rest from the Chinese Civil War that ended in 1950). Sounds very political to me. Adding an expanding South African influence over the economies in Botswana, the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, and Swaziland, we have almost got ourselves an Africa in between two giants scraping for the pieces. We should not forget, though, that these countries also heavily has invested in health both nationally and in different countries throughout Africa.
Just a month ago, there was a BRICS conference in which ”the decision has been made to set up a BRICS development bank”, according to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh:
Notable here is the Tibetan demonstration against Chinese repression. I guess no country is wholly benevolent. If one, on a more personal level, should look for a bigger institution to actually help people, I believe that the best humanitarian organisations are the likes of UNICEF, UNHCR, the Red Cross, and Médecins Sans Frontières. On the economic scene, much is to be done. Microfinance loans or big-time investment from big business? State aid or state investment? Big questions.
What is clear, is that the BRICS are pushing forward heavily. Between 2005 and 2010, Brazil and China increased their aid by 20%. The same figures for India: 11%; South Africa: 8%; Russia: 36%. The US increased its aid, over the same time period, with 1.6%. Now, this could be, of course, that the US already gives so much that a 20% increase from that sum would become an immense sum, whereas the BRICS previously have given less and hence can afford greater percentage increases. In 2010, the US spent around $31 billion whereas the added BRICS sum was $6.4 billion – and hence it is clear that US aid grows more slowly. It is already that big. Where the aid actually goes is another question.
If you are very interested by this question, you can follow this discussion, which in total makes up around 50 minutes: