Sharing the wealth?
Aid at lowest level in 45 years
Official development assistance (ODA) from the industrialized countries is in
the doldrums, slumping to an average of just 0.27% of their combined GNP, the
lowest level since aid statistics were first collected in 1950. The US gave the
lowest portion of its GNP for aid: 0.10% in 1995, the latest year for which
figures are available. In contrast, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden
all allocated more than 0.7% of their GNP for development assistance, the
international target agreed upon in 1969. Denmark tops the list, earmarking
In absolute dollars, Japan gave the most aid ($14.5 billion), almost double
that of the US ($7.4 billion). The US dropped to fourth place from first place
in 1990, when it gave $11.4 billion in aid. However, together with France and
Germany, these four countries accounted for more than three fifths of the total
$59 billion in aid provided by 21 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD) donors in 1995.
On the amount of aid per person, however, Denmark heads the list, giving $311
per capita. Three countriesItaly, Portugal and the USgave $28, the lowest
amount per capita.
Though private investments and loans flowing to developing countries have
surged, tripling from $52 billion in 1990 to $159 billion in 1995, most have
gone to a dozen or so emerging economies, including China, Mexico and the
Republic of Korea. The poorest countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa,
have received hardly any private loans or investment. Aid is crucial for
these countries in combating poverty, repaying debt, supporting investment
and financing social services.
A glimmer of hope in the disquieting aid picture is the evidence of a shift
in aid allocations towards social sectors. This trend gains further impetus
from the 20/20 initiative, supported by UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO.
The initiative calls for allocating 20% of aid and 20% of developing
countries’ budgets for basic social servicesprimary health care,
including reproductive health and family planning, nutrition, basic education
and safe drinking water supply and sanitation. These services are the
foundation for sustainable human development.