How much money does the United States give to other countries? Probably not as much as you think.
This week, Latitude News sent our correspondent Zak Rosen to Dearborn, Michigan to ask locals that same question. Most of the Michiganders wildly over-guessed (kudos to Steve Keninger, who was just $3 billion off). As it turns out, the US will disburse around $53 billion in foreign aid this year, about 1 percent of the federal budget.
A fifth of our foreign aid goes to one country: Afghanistan. No prizes for guessing the other big beneficiaries. They are, in descending order: Iraq, Israel, Pakistan and Egypt. You can consult this interactive map to see how much other nations receive.
Jawad: “Foreign aid is very important to the survival of a superpower like the United States…”
Many others in Dearborn thought that $53 billion was still too much. While they acknowledged that foreign aid to poor nations can be a worthwhile investment, they say we aren’t spending enough money at home. Perhaps that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise: Dearborn is a relatively well-off suburb, home to many Ford executives, but it borders Detroit, a city with some of the most derelict and depressed neighborhoods in America.
An aid competition
Meanwhile, there’s a new power in the world of foreign aid: China. In 2002, China gave less than $1 billion to other nations. By 2007, experts believe that number had swelled to $25 billion (accurate figures are hard to come by, as the government rarely publishes official statistics).
Berry: “The US has its own problems to worry about…”
Hearts and minds
China spends most of its money on infrastructure and natural resource extraction projects in Africa and Asia. But Beijing recently also increased its outlays in Latin America and the Caribbean, making some in the US nervous about China’s growing influence in our own backyard.
Chavez: “If we’re not winning their hearts and minds, then China will…”
A Muslim tradition of giving
Washington and Beijing’s foreign aid figures are dwarfed by the amount of annual charitable contributions from Muslim countries’ governments and citizens. Islamic financial analysts estimate that Muslims give between $200 billion and $1 trillion each year (though they also say much of that money is misused or embezzled). In comparison, American citizens, nonprofits and other private groups donated $347 billion to charity in 2011.
Islamic law requires the faithful to give away 2.5 percent of their wealth every year in a process known as “zakat.” Voluntary contributions, “sadaka,” account for even greater donations. Much of the money goes to local causes, like feeding the poor, housing orphans and building mosques. Dearborn is 40 percent Arab-American, so naturally the topic of “sadaka” came up.
What do you think? Should the US be giving more or less to other countries?
Shannir: “Here in the US we have a wonderful system but they don’t show us where things are going…”