Wednesday, June 08, 2005

You'll see what a difference it makes every day

Now, here's a misrepresentative lede, on western promises of African aid: WASHINGTON -- Seeking billions in debt relief for Africa, newly re-elected British Prime Minister Tony Blair had to settle yesterday for extravagantly wrapped morsels of food aid and vague promises of more to come from U.S. President George W. Bush. "We are committed to doing more in the future," Mr. Bush said after talks with the British leader. Both men gushed about their close relationship, but a clear and yawning gap remained in their positions over both aid to Africa and global warming. Mr. Blair wants massive action on both now; Mr. Bush remains unconvinced. Wow, what a heartless bastard, huh? Just the kind of expectation Globe & Mail readers already have of Bush, so why disappoint, right? But if you read all the way to the bottom, a different picture emerges. Although the Bush administration has tripled aid to Africa and created a program that makes handouts conditional on African governments taking steps to shift to market economies and free trade, Washington's aid still falls far short of the UN-recommended levels. "Nobody wants to give money to a country that is corrupt, where leaders take money and put it in their pocket," the President said. "We're really not interested in supporting a government that doesn't have open economies and open markets. We expect there to be a, you know, reciprocation." The real issue isn't that Bush has promised "morsels" (what a sneeringly Dickensian word to use!) - rather, he's tripled previous US aid levels - but that he's paying no attention to UN busybodies and their ideas of how much no-strings-attached cash he should be throwing their way. And why is that? Because he wants to be sure that US aid actually means something, that it's not just lining the pockets of corrupt or insane local pols and self-righteous but utterly useless UN bureaucrats. If aid can be given in a way that actually stimulates the economies of African countries, rather than as a pure and simple hand-out that maintains a culture of dependence on neo-colonial (but don't call them that to their faces) European administrators, why shouldn't it be? It's like he actually wants to improve the world, rather than making expensive but ultimately useless gestures, or something...

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