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2011-05-05

Where do the dollars go?

Carolyn B. Edwards

Like many of you, I have often thought that the United States needs to stop sending "foreign aid."

It frequently seems as if the countries we send all this money to aren't really grateful. And we have so many problems here at home that perhaps could be solved if we just kept those dollars here.

I recently spent some time researching American foreign aid in the Internet and learned a few things.

The biggest surprise was that, among economically developed countries, the United States ranks 22nd in the amount of foreign aid dollars sent as a percentage of our Gross Domestic Product. Tiny Denmark leads the list with the highest percentage of giving.

From 1999 through 2006, the top four recipients of American aid dollars were Iraq, Israel, Egypt and Afghanistan. Iraq received $31.5 billion in those seven years, Israel $26.49 billion, Egypt got $16.77 billion, and Afghanistan got $10.62 billion.

In 2010, Iraq and Afghanistan topped the list due, I'm assuming, to the wars, followed by Sudan, Egypt, Columbia, Ethiopia and Jordan.
After these top recipients, the aid dollar amounts drop significantly to other countries.

Interestingly enough, of the 10 least developed countries on Earth, only Ethiopia received significant amounts of US foreign aid.

I was not surprised to learn that the greatest share of the money is in military aid, i.e. weapons, tanks, fighter planes, and so forth. Seems like in recent years, whenever we go to war with someone we eventually discover the guns shooting at our soldiers originally came from the good ol' USA.

US aid to Israel from 1949 through 2007 was well over half military in nature, while less than one third of the total foreign aid dollars supported economic development.

In 2010, Israel's military gift was $2,775 million; only $400 million were economic. Egypt received $1,300 million in military aid and just $250 million for economic development.

What conclusions will I reach after considering these interesting statistics? I have begun to wonder if countries receiving our beneficence would like us better if we gave them more opportunities to have better schools, good water, roads and bridges, communication networks, and better health, instead of materials to kill each other with.

I'm sure I'll never understand the political complexities that determine who gets what and how much, but I don't think we've been doing a very good job with our aid dollars in recent decades. The military side of the books always seems to come back to bite us eventually, doesn't it?

I wonder if we could do more for the economy of Mexico, and use all that concrete and chain link in the border fence for something more practical.