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Dollar Bill
1.07.05
Politics and Economy:
US Aid Dollars in Perspective
More on This Story:
Overview

A few years ago, Americans were asked in a survey how much our government spends on foreign aid as a percentage of the entire federal budget. People typically guessed 20 percent. In reality, the federal government's foreign aid represents less than one percent of the budget. Watchers of the news have seen that the tsunami crisis has brought the United States' generosity into question. The White House and Secretary of State fired back maintaining the US is among of the most giving nations in the world. But what is the bottom line?

Some of the discrepancies in interpretation arise for the difference between the total amount of dollars spent and that amount in relation to national budgets and gross national income. While the United States does indeed lead the world in total amount of dollars pledged, it doesn't come near to the United Nations target of 0.7 percent of GNP and is substantially lower that the average efforts of all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED) nations — 0.41 percent.

The figures below are drawn from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Aid Statistics.

Official Development Spending by Countries in US Dollars, 2003
Country Total spending (millions) % of Gross National Income Aid $ per capita Emergency aid as % of total aid
Australia 1,219 0.25 50 13.6
Austria 505 0.20 58 9.1
Belgium 1,853 0.60 125 6.2
Canada 2,031 0.24 59 21.1
Denmark 1,714 0.84 285 8.4
Finland 558 0.35 89 11.9
France 7,253 0.41 96 6.3
Germany 5,324 0.28 66 3.8
Greece 362 0.21 26 5.1
Ireland 504 0.39 103 7.0
Italy 2,433 0.17 37 5.0
Japan 8,880 0.20 69 0.4
Luxembourg 194 0.81 344 N/A
Netherlands 3,981 0.80 203 3.3
New Zealand 165 0.23 32 12.7
Norway 2,042 0.92 381 18.7
Portugal 320 0.22 28 0.8
Spain 1,961 0.23 39 4.7
Sweden 2,400 0.79 221 22.8
Switzerland 1,299 0.39 141 17.7
United Kingdom 6,282 0.34 89 12.6
United States 13,290 0.15 51 12.7



As many reports have noted, pledges of aid are not always made manifest. Another factor in play in evaluating world response to the tsunami disaster is whether nations are pledging additional funds for this emergency or drawing from aid appropriations already made. Many nations are also considering another form of aid to the nations in crisis — relief of debt. Find out more below. Additional sources: THE ECONOMIST, OECD, United Nations

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