After fiddling around for a week or so assembling, then updating and updating again, lists summarizing some governments’ tsunami aid commitments (here and here), I moved on. I liked watching the relative surge in traffic and seeing visitors hit the site from all over the world, due in large part to the fact a Google search for “per capita tsunami aid” (and close permutations) returned this site at the very top of the list. But I didn’t see making the collection of aid statistics a full-time job.
Now the traffic surge is over. One reason is that per capita tsunami aid is cooling off as a topic (yes, those Norwegians and Australians shelled out a ton of cash. Boy, those Americans sure are reluctant to take the plunge). Another is that other sites have risen to the top of the list:
—Tsunami Aid is a post on another blog that approaches the relative aid that governments have committed from the standpoint of gross domestic product. It’s just another variable for quickly analyzing what governments are offering.
–A site called NationMaster, which apparently is in the business of mining the CIA World Factbook for data and presenting it in new and interesting ways, has put together a richly detailed section that includes not only government commitments, but also statistics on the amount donated to the cause by private sources in each country, how aid stacks up per capita and by GDP, and how many nationals of each donor country were killed or are missing. Each category is ranked (and, according to this list, as of today, the United States ranks second (after Germany) in the world in the total of public and private aid committed to date with $1.003 billion; but judged in terms of dollars of aid per capita and per dollar of GDP, the U.S. ranks 23rd and 27th, respectively).
–One resource that doesn’t show up on Google and appears only in fine print on NationMaster’s site is a Wikipedia compilation of government and private donations from around the world. What makes this list great is how well it’s sourced — you can see directly where the numbers are coming from, which is a big aid in assessing how reliable and current they are. The article also includes a detailed listing of just what aid has been offered in terms of cash, loans, services, and materiel; and it concludes with a list of contributions by U.S. corporations. Pretty impressive, and a great demonstration (I think) of Wikipedia’s power to build authoritative information through an open group effort.
A brief reflection on tsunami aid statistics: It’s clear, two weeks after the calamity struck, that most of the world’s wealthier nations have — either through shame or competitiveness or just plain good feeling (why did I list the best alternative last?) — come forward with a significant pile of cash to address the disaster. An updated list from Reuters shows a total of more than $5 billion in government aid pledged. At the top of the list in total contributions: Australia (detailed in this updated earlier post). At the top in per capita (an updated list) is Norway. The list includes some countries you figure don’t have a lot of spare cash lying around, too: Bulgaria, Niger, and Mali, for instance.
The Reuters tally also includes statistics on private giving. The total: about $1.3 billion, and that does not include contributions from the United States.
The scale of the disaster is so vast, and the amount of money committed so far to relief seems to have mounted so quickly, it’s hard to get a handle on how well the need is being met. (And of course, even the total of $6 billion plus is small compared to the amount of money the world’s only superpower — oh, hey, that’s us — is dropping in Iraq. Our rough expenditure on that little mission of mercy tops $7 billion — every month.
Maybe a more pertinent piece of context is this: the Oakland Hills fire in 1991, which destroyed about 3,000 dwellings and killed 25 people, reportedly caused between $1.5 billion and $2 billion in damage (insurers are said to have paid out $1.7 billion). Insured losses for the 2004 hurricane season in Florida (something like 120 people killed) have been put at $17.5 billion. Even making allowances for the way property is valued in the United States, the $6 billion-plus promised to South and Southeast Asia so far is just the beginning of dealing with the disaster.
Based on the stats in my earlier-posted list, here’s the per capita ranking for selected nations and their government contributions to the tsunami relief effort (it would be interesting to do the nation-by-nation stats on private contributions, too, but I need to get off my butt and so something resembling real work at some point today). And yes, that number for Norway is correct. The government in Oslo raised its initial pledge of 100 million Norwegian kroner (about $16.3 million) to 1.1 billion kroner ($180 million) (as reported in the English edition of Aftenposten). Norway’s population is just 4.6 million, so the per capita figure exceeds that of even the sparsely populated Number 1 donor in total aid, Australia). If the United States made a commitment at a similar rate to Norway’s, its aid figure would come to a little more than $11.5 billion.
(Just for fun, I’ve thrown in each country’s world ranking in per capita GDP from the CIA World Factbook; the rankings are in parentheses after each country’s per capita aid figure in U.S. dollars).
–Updated on 1/5/04 to reflect new aid commitments from Australia and Germany.
–Updated on 1/8/04 to reflect new aid commitments and add Kuwait, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland.
–Updated on 1/8/04 to add Finland and the Netherlands and update French aid total.
–Updated on 1/9/04 to reflect increased aid commitment from Finland.
–Updated on 1/11/04 to reflect increased aid commitment from Canada.
1. Norway: $39.13 (Per capita GDP rank: 2)
2. Australia: $37.82 (14)
3. Qatar: $29.76 (36)
4. Denmark: $14.11 (8)
5. Canada: $13.24 (11)
6. Switzerland: $13.00 (7)
7. Finland: $12.56 (22)
8. Sweden: $8.33 (24)
9. Germany: $8.17 (21)
10. United Arab Emirates: $8.00 (32)
11. Kuwait: $4.35 (47)
12. Japan: $3.91 (17)
13. Taiwan: $2.21 (31)
14. Netherlands: $2.09 (16)
15. Spain: $1.69 (34)
16. New Zealand: $1.68 (35)
17. United Kingdom: $1.61 (19)
18. European Union: $1.36 (26)
19. United States: $1.19 (3)
20. Saudi Arabia:$1.17 (69)
21. France: $1.05 (20)
22. China: $0.05 (120)
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.)
The Amazing Tsunami Aid Turnaround continues: After embarrassing itself earlier this week by announcing the U.S. would commit $15 million to tsunami relief — equivalent to what we spend every 100 minutes on Iraq — the Bush administration upped the number first to $35 million (about four whole hours of Iraq money) and now to $350 million. OK, I won’t bother to translate that into Iraq terms, since doing that is an exercise in context and irony. Realistically, no one can yet put a price tag on just what recovery in southern and southeastern Asia will take. Lots of the money is going to come straight from ordinary folks who are moved to reach into their own pockets. You may or may not have a favored aid organization in mind. In this case (as in earlier disasters) Kate and I have given through the American Red Cross (which is also collecting for tsunami relief through Amazon, which says it has raised about $9.5 million from 125,000 individual donors so far).
That’s just one option, clearly. Network for Good has what looks like an excellent list of organizations participating in both immediate and long-term response to the disaster.
The United States made an initial pledge of $15 million in post-tsunami disaster relief. Incredibly generous compared to, say, France, which is offering 100,000 euros; but less open-handed compared to Japan, which is sending $30 million and other forms of help; aid from Australia and the Netherland (something like $7.5 million and $2 million, respectively) is far greater per capita than what we’re offering. But it’s really the thought that counts.
Here’s how our $15 million stacks up against the pile of money we’re ploughing into Iraq. The cost of our ongoing "bust a dictator, start a democracy" project is about $150 billion to date. That’s 10,000 times as much as we’re contemplating putting into the tsunami recovery effort. Wait, though: It’s taken us 21 months to spend all that Iraq money. In round figures, let’s say we’ve spent $7 billion a month on average on dictator busting. In round figures again, that breaks down to $230 million a day. We spend $15 million in Iraq every one hour and 40 minutes. So the conclusion is obvious: We’re shelling out about 15.33 times as much for one day of building our future Mesopotamian democracy as we’re willing to spend to help deal with a calamity that some are calling the costliest disaster in history.