Troubles with generosity
Fr Pawel Rozpiatkowski
People say that we are mean. Our help for developing countries is allegedly growing but many say that it is offered too slowly. It is encouraging that every year in Poland there are more and more people who become convinced that we should help the poorer. According to the latest public opinion poll conducted by TNS OBOP for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as many as 84 % of Polish people share this conviction. It is 20% more than five years ago. On the other hand, the conviction lingers on: although we have left – it is worth noticing that with the help of others – the circle of world poverty, we are still closer to it than to the exclusive league of the richest.
Yet, according to the latest UN report Polish women live only a few years shorter than the leaders in this ranking – Norwegian women. People are increasingly better educated and the average income in 2007 was 16,000 dollars. If some Jas Kowalski were born in Niger it would have only 30% chance of being literate. If he were a little lucky we would live to the age of 50 and he would earn 630 dollars a year. ‘This is 25 times less than in Poland’, Jan Szczypinski, an expert of the Global Development Research Group, emphasises in his comments to the UN report about the quality of life in the world. We occupy the 41st position in the UN report. There are 141 behind us. From our region only the Czech Republic and Estonia occupy higher positions than we do. Hungary and Slovakia are behind us in the ranking, not speaking about Belarus, Romania and Ukraine. The lowest positions are taken by the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, i.e. those located in the south from the biggest desert in the world. This region cries for most help. It embraces 48 countries.
In the donors’ club
In 2004 we joined the group of the biggest world donors, which is the European Union, counting for aid means for development and richer personal wallets. Jasmine Burnley, the co-ordinator of AidWatch, estimates that 50 % of aid means for the poorest come from the EU countries. Entering the EU structures we took on a commitment to help the poorest in the world, besides gaining advantages. It is actually the Polish state that has this duty but as we know it gains money first of all from our taxes. The assistance was to increase every year. The Polish government promised to assign 0.17 % of its GDP for development assistance in the year 2010 and in five years’ time it should be 0.33%. All signs in heaven and earth show that we are not going to fulfil this commitment. It is cold comfort to us that we are not the only exception among the countries of our region. The Slovakians and our brothers from Hungary have also problems with generosity. The Czechs are a little better than the average donors. In 2007 Poland and Slovakia transferred 0.9 % of the GDP for development assistance; Hungary assigned only 0.8% but the Czechs gave 0.11%. The non-governmental organisations that monitor the fulfilment of these promises are sceptical. Doubtfully, none of these countries will keep the commitments till 2010.
Elite of generosity
As for the world the governments of Denmark, Sweden and Holland are proportionately most generous. In absolute numbers the European three: France, Germany and Great Britain give the largest development assistance. The case of Spain is interesting. It has joined the group of important world donors. In 1979 Spaniards were still receivers of aid. In the 1980s they began sharing with the poorest. In six years’ time they want to reach the level of 0.7% of the GDP for the development of the poorest countries.
What is it all for? To have a 50% decrease of those who earn less than one dollar a day. To give all children the chance to finish elementary school and see to it that after school they will not have to walk several kilometres to bring water as it happens in many African countries and elsewhere. These are some of the Millennium Development Goals. The world, and in particular 189 countries united under the flag of the United Nations, adopted the goals in the Millennium Declaration at the beginning of the third millennium. But recently the rich world has given up helping and there are small chances to reach these goals in 2015. The latest UN report blames the financial crisis in the rich countries that influenced the economy of the weaker developing countries and became evident in the increased food prices. The particular countries afflicted by the crisis cut their financial assistance. In February Ireland, which is proportionately one of the bigger donors, announced that it would cut 10% off the budget for development assistance, which is almost 100 million euros. Earlier Italy had done the same. Lithuania, struggling with the crisis, stopped its aid. Last year Poland gave up its help and for the first time assigned fewer means than the previous year. Cruel but true: some groups of starving people will have to do without.