Too much tsunami aid?
In an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, economist Keith Marsden argues that the world may be preparing to give too much tsunami aid to Asia. "If housing, food, health, and education services are supplied free or below cost to refugees for prolonged periods, they may lose the motivation to return to their former jobs or seek new activities," he warns. "Aid has hindered rather than helped the development process in some countries."
But more than that, he suggests that aid agencies are overstating the problem just as (he says) they've overstated past emergencies. "Without diminishing the scale of the tragedy, the number of persons affected should be rigorously checked. There are already reports that the number of refugees in Aceh camps has been significantly inflated by local officials seeking more aid," he says. The article is available only to subscribers, so here's a lengthier excerpt than Weblog normally offers:
In a press release dated Jan. 25, Unicef reported the creation of a "Tsunami Water and Sanitation Fund," and appealed for a further $763 million. In justification, Unicef says: "Many of the children affected by the tsunami lacked access to safe water and sanitation before the waves hit. Across South Asia, only 35% of people have access to a basic toilet."
The World Bank paints a different picture. It reports that toilet access rates were much higher in the three most affected countries -- 96% in Thailand, 94% in Sri Lanka and 55% in Indonesia in 2000 -- and they have all seen substantial improvements since 1990. Access to safe drinking water has jumped to 84% in India, 78% in Indonesia and 77% in Sri Lanka.
Yet Unicef claims that "many children in the region -- particularly girls -- are denied ...1
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