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Choose an issue of importance to you—the issue could be personal, school related, local, political, or international in scope—and write an essay in which you explain the significance of that issue to yourself, your family, your community, or your generation.
Foreign aid is a farce.
I understand that’s not a very popular thing to say; one of the only things conservatives and liberals seem to agree on is that the poor and starving of third-world countries need some kind of help. Certainly many, many people would be very distressed to learn that their conscience-consoling donations to the third-world country of their choice were actually doing more harm than good, but that is just what is happening.
On the surface, foreign aid is a wonderful thing, the ultimate good work of society, and indeed on a personal level people helping people is extremely noble and provides precious hope for humanity. However, when dealing with nations and governments, goodwill and charity don’t always go over so well.
For example, American farmers have in the last century had serious difficulty staying in business in light of America’s remarkably low and heavily fluctuating produce prices, prompting the federal government to subsidize farmers’ sales and thus promote overproduction. Then, out of the goodness of everyone’s collective heart, all that excess grain is shipped over to the poor, starving worlds of Africa and Asia, so that the world will be a better place and so many emaciated children will have bellies full of grain tonight. A noble sentiment, certainly, but rather flawed.
Take Ethiopia. Ethiopia was once an agricultural powerhouse among African countries. Their farming systems were superb, their climate was fertile, and they enjoyed many years of net exports of various grains. Their system was by no means perfect, and poverty was a major issue in the country, but most importantly the country had a stable economic system that allowed the country to provide for itself. Now, the massive amounts of food aid pouring into Ethiopia have created rampant inflation. There is no one to buy from the struggling Ethiopian farmer’s grain stores, and before long that farmer himself will be driven to go wait on the docks for the next shipment of free grain. The poor children in the country may have American grain to eat, but at what cost? Aid of this type does not improve the problem of poverty at all. The economy is soon reduced to total dependency.
The problem isn’t only with agricultural subsidies; America and other wealthy world powers often implicitly finance poverty through international relations. In 2008, America will budget approximately $96 million for unspecified international aid, which will be given freely to poor or oppressed countries. While politically that sounds very good, the truth of the matter is that America does little more than hand the billion dollars to a handful of lucky foreign governments and say “here, now go help your country”. Unfortunately, America has just handed ostensible “aid money” to the very despotic governments that are oppressing their people. Pragmatically speaking, the impoverished of those countries are never going to see that money—unless in the form of shiny new M16s being pointed at them. Now, to be fair, there is a viable purpose behind giving that money away, and the government is serving our own national interest by helping powerful dictators or other oppressive regimes feel friendly toward the U.S. But regardless, to call that money “foreign aid” (or “USAID”, as it were) is simply a lie.
This sort of situation happens all over the world, too, and not just through governmental irresponsibility. Bono is widely hailed as a hero for the money and awareness he’s raising for the helpless in Africa, and heartbreaking TV commercials have been around for decades that depict sad, emaciated children walking through garbage in India and urge viewers to donate now to save a life. But in the long run, what good does that money do? As a matter of common sense, throwing money at a problem is never a particularly wise solution, and here is no different. Monetarily supplementing the poor will only create a welfare state in Africa or wherever the money is going, and will very quickly cripple the lower class of society and make them completely dependent on aid.
Now, not all aid is bad. I sponsor a Kenyan boy named Saiyalel Mororo myself, but I do so under very specific circumstances. The money I send goes to a single child rather than a relief organization, and it will put Saiyalel through school and give him a safe place to live, rather than providing a bread line for him to stand in. So there are good ways to provide aid, they’re just not always the most popular ones. The most beneficial thing we as outsiders can do for a struggling country is to bolster its own infrastructure and encourage public education for its people – because ultimately, our goal is to someday eliminate the need for foreign aid at all.
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