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   Prasoon S Majumdar
Prasoon S Majumdar
Editor, Economic Affairs - The Sunday Indian
Dean Academics (All India), The Indian Institute of Planning and Management

De-politicise aid!

For once, First World needs to learn from India...

A week back, the US President Barack Obama said that developing nations would have to help themselves and not completely depend on aid from the developed world, which is struggling with financial crisis. His statement may seem quite logical, in the current context, given the economic problem that the developed world has been facing but then the track record of the developed world has never been promising! And this is not the first time that First World countries have excuses of not helping or rather not fulfilling the promises they make in much touted G 8 or G 20 meets.

Even during the recent disaster in Haiti, in spite of the promises made by the world leaders, assistance remained inadequate. A recent UN report reveals that even after a decade, all promises made by countries to bring comfort and justice to the world’s poor by 2015 is perpetually delayed. Moreover, the promise made (and iterated again and again in almost all global forums) by developed countries of contributing 0.7 per cent of their GNI towards development aid for poor nations have seen no substantial fulfilment. Only five countries have achieved this and most of the others only manage to contribute around 0.5-0.3 per cent. Despite failing repeatedly in meeting their commitments, nothing stops them to shamelessly declare newer promises. Else, how does one justify that just 40 per cent of aid money promised at the G8 summit in 2005 has been delivered and $11 billion of the $25 billion promised aid towards Africa has been released till now. As per the OECD forecast, the global aid will fall short by a staggering $21 billion in 2010!

Amidst the double standards of the developed world, India evolves as a beautiful example of fulfilling its aid assistance. In 2008, it allocated about $547 million to aid-related activities and also approved $2.96 billion in Lines of Credits (LoCs) to the Sub-Saharan Africa. To top it up, we are one of the largest contributors to the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC) that provides developmental assistance. This is not all. From being a borrower from IMF, today, we are doing the converse. India provided $308 million as special drawing rights to the IMF’s Financial Transactions Plan besides contributing to the IMF’s Emergency Assistance Fund.

Another critical aspect of aid is the diplomatic or strategic motive behind it. A close study on aid disbursement shows how the First World countries pushed aid to those nations which are of strategic importance to them. Contrary to this, India has been seemingly benevolent while aiding out. India helped Pakistan during the worst flood despite enemity. Even while the bilateral relations are at its lowest, India has been helping next-door neighbours like Nepal and Bhutan along with assisting these countries in setting up medical colleges. Same goes for countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Philippines, Myanmar, and Afghanistan and so on. What more, in spite of people dying of AIDS in India itself and developed countries showing their reluctance in sharing low cost generic drugs formulae with poor nations, India supplied more than 80 per cent of donor-funded AIDS medicines to developing countries in the last seven years which allowed about four million people to start low cost medication.

For once, it is important for developed countries to learn from India on playing their selfless humanitarian role bereft of any neo-colonisation.


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