Just because it appears to be a subject of interest based on searches reaching the information-laden Infospigot site, here’s a quick listing of some of the notable government tsunami aid pledges and how they break down into per capita amounts. I don’t have time to write a table, so the numbers are presented in a sort of unattractive (but still useful, I hope) fashion: The country name (with a link to a news source) is followed by the current announced aid commitment stated in U.S. dollars (I calculated exchanges using an online calculator at XE.com). The number in parentheses is the initial aid pledge, if known. The rest is self-explanatory: national populations are stated in millions and are linked to national government statistics sources where possible.
One conclusion I’m inclined to draw from the numbers is that most governments around the world, including ours, simply underestimated the magnitude of the disaster the region was dealing with. I’d say Japan and Norway were the early exceptions to that: Japan, perhaps, because of its familiarity with tsunamis and their effects and Norway because it was mindful of how many of its citizens were in the region. The sense that the event wasn’t initially seen as the catastrophe it was is reinforced by reading the transcript of Colin Powell’s State Department press briefing on Monday morning, more than 36 hours after the tsunamis struck. He actually led off with the head of USAID talking about the $15 million the United States was contemplating committing to the relief effort. But the reporters on hand were more interested in talking about Iraq and other subjects and never, as far as the record shows, asked any questions critical of the amount suggested.
–Updated 1/5/05 with increased aid commitments from Australia and Germany.
–Updated 1/8/05 to add statistics for the European Union, Kuwait, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates.
–Updated 1/8/05 to add statistics for Finland and the Netherlands and update France’s aid total.
–Updated 1/9/05 to update Finland’s aid total (thanks, Tuomas).
–Updated 1/11/05 to reflect new Canadian aid (thanks, Jordon).
Australia: $764M ($15.6M). Population: 20.2. Per capita: $37.82
Canada: $425M ($3.3M). Population 32.1. Per capita: $13.24
China: $63M ($2.6M). Population: 1,300. Per capita: $0.05
Denmark: $76.2M ($1.8M). Population: 5.4. Per capita: $14.11
European Union: $618M ($30M). Population: 456.3. Per capita: $1.36
Finland: $65.3M ($4M). Population: 5.2. Per capita: $12.56
France: $64.6M ($0.135M). Population: 61.7. Per capita: $1.05
Germany: $674M ($1.35M). Population: 82.5. Per capita: $8.17
Japan: $500M ($30M). Population: 128. Per capita: $3.91
Kuwait: $10M. Population: 2.3. Per capita: $4.35
Netherlands: $34M ($2.6M). Population: 16.3. Per capita: $2.09
New Zealand: $6.9M. Population: 4.1. Per capita: $1.68.
Norway: $180M ($16.4M). Population: 4.6. Per capita: $39.13
Qatar:$25M. Population: .84. Per capita: $29.76
Saudi Arabia: $30M ($10M). Population: 25.6. Per capita: $1.17
Spain: $68M ($1.35M). Population: 40.3. Per capita: $1.69
Sweden: $75M ($0.75M). Population: 9. Per capita: $8.33
Switzerland: $96.2M. Population: 7.4. Per capita: $13.00
Taiwan: $50M ($5). Population: 22.6. Per capita: $2.21
United Arab Emirates: $20M. Population: 2.5. Per capita: $8.00
United Kingdom: $95.1M ($1.3M). Population: 59.6. Per capita: $1.61.
United States: $350M ($15M). Population: 295.2. Per capita: $1.19
(Source for statistics on earlier/initial aid offers are mostly from “Reuters Factbox: Nations pledge aid after Asia tsunami disaster” (http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/110433536336.htm). Most press sources are now giving the initial United States commitment as $35 million, but they’re incorrect. The initial total offered by the State Department was $15 million and is detailed in a transcript of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s press briefing, along with the head of USAID, on December 27.)