Jan 24, 2005
More than 40 governments have promised nearly four billion dollars in aid to tsunami victims. But now that the television cameras are gone from the Jakarta donors' conference, the scummy details about these deceitful "pledges" are coming out.
Half of the four billion dollars in aid pledged is not aid at all, but interest free loans. In other words, the countries that get the money are expected to pay it back. This means that poor people who live in these countries, where millions of survivors of the tsunami have absolutely nothing, will be squeezed to pay the money back.
Hundreds of millions of dollars of pledged money turns out to have been money already scheduled to be spent in the area. The Asian Development Bank, which distributes money from various countries, pledged 675 million dollars to rebuild roads, trains and other projects in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. But 175 million dollars of this is "reprogrammed" money. In other words, it is not new money at all, but takes money away from previously pledged projects in the devastated countries.
Nonetheless, Jan Egeland, the United Nation's emergency relief coordinator, blathered away, "We are recording now pledges between three billion and four billion dollars, which again shows that it is indeed the world coming together in a manner we've never, ever seen before."
No, we've seen it before. Exactly a year before to the day of the tsunami, an earthquake devastated the Iranian city of Bam, leaving 32,000 dead and 18,000 wounded. One billion dollars in aid was promised, but only 17 million dollars has arrived, less than two% of what was promised.
Even the head of the U.N. Kofi Annan admits that these pledges will not be kept: "I will not be surprised if we do not get all the money. This is the history we live with."
This "history we live with" has a name. It's called capitalism, where even natural disasters are turned to the advantage of the big imperialist powers.