First, the details:
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday pledged to work with other leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations to forgive the debt of the poorest African countries and, as expected, Bush announced $674 million in additional humanitarian aid for the continent, USA Today reports (Benedetto, USA Today, 6/8). At a joint press conference during Blair's visit to the White House, Bush announced that the additional aid will be directed toward famine relief in Ethiopia, Eritrea and other African countries and will provide food for approximately 14 million people. The $674 million will come from a USDA food reserve program and from funding provided by a recent supplemental appropriations bill to support ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/7). Experts estimate that about 20% of Southern African agricultural workers are expected to die of AIDS-related causes by 2020, which could threaten food production and worsen food shortages (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/5). The funds will be directed only to countries that practice good governance, according to Bush (USA Today, 6/8). "I see we've got a fantastic opportunity, presuming that the countries in Africa make the right decisions. Nobody wants to give money to a country that's corrupt, where leaders take money and put it in their pocket," Bush said (VandeHei, Washington Post, 6/8). Bush also defended his decision not to agree to Blair's proposal to double weathy nations' aid to Africa to $25 billion, according to the New York Times. He said that the United States already has tripled aid to Africa to $3.2 billion during his administration, adding, "We'll do more down the road," the Times reports (Bumiller, New York Times, 6/8).
Debt Relief Plan
Bush and Blair also said that a deal to forgive the debt of the world's poorest countries likely will be reached soon, possibly by the end of the week, according to the Wall Street Journal. The deal would cancel approximately $34 billion in debt for at least 27 poor countries. More countries could become eligible under the deal, which would include the obligations owed to the World Bank and the African Development Bank. Debt owed to the International Monetary Fund would not be included under the deal. "I think there is a real and common desire to help that troubled continent come out of the poverty and deprivation that so many millions of its people suffer," Blair said, adding, "In a situation where literally thousands of children die from preventable diseases every day, it's our duty to act, and we will" (McKinnon/Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 6/8).
(News from Kaiser Network.org)
Now, as the New York Times puts it, the truth is not what it appears. The $674 million is money already approved by Congress. Already, as in not "additional".
According to a poll, most Americans believe that the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent. As Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist in charge of the United Nations' Millennium Project, put it so well, the notion that there is a flood of American aid going to Africa "is one of our great national myths."
Link to the complete op-ed piece.