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Monday, January 09, 2006 

COMMENTARY

Wealth and aid, a case of incongruity


Monday, January 9, 2006

At the dawn of the new century, the United Nation’s Millennium Declaration, in recognition of the actions required for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set specific targets for aid for the major donor countries.

(MDGs are goals which clearly sought to begin the process of redressing the brutal inequities of the modern global economic system.)
Donor countries were asked to commit to an agenda, which would see each of them contributing 0.5 percent of their respective national incomes to aid by 2010, with this figure to increase to 0.7 percent by 2015.

In its most recent annual assessment of the progress towards the attainment of the stated goals, (Human Development Report 2005), here is what the UN has to say about the matter of aid from the donor countries.

”Without a sustained increase in aid, the MDGs will not be achieved. The time for incremental change is past. If donor countries are serious about tackling global poverty, reducing inequality and securing a safer and more prosperous future for their own citizens they need to set their sight firmly on the target of delivering 0.5 percent of their national income in aid by 2010 and 0.7 percent in 2015.”
The stark reality is that the levels of aid available to the poorest of the poor are currently insufficient.

In the context of the parsimony demonstrated by most of the leading industrial nations, calls on their limited aid budgets by nations/ communities more favourably positioned to access resources from alternative sources amount to an additional travesty on the poorest of the poor. The Cayman Islands recent request for aid from the EU arguably falls in this category.

Commonly identified as the fifth largest financial centre in the world, with a per capita GDP dwarfed by only one EU member, Luxembourg, it is incumbent upon us as a community that we utilise our own capacitates to meet the justifiable public sector financial requirements.

It is morally indefensible that we should seek to divert resources that ought better to be directed to the hundreds of millions in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia living on less than $2.00 per day to ourselves rather than use our resolve to fulfil our requirements from the plenteous resources that are ascribed to our shores, particularly in light of the modest sums involved ($7,000,000.00) in our request to the EU for assistance.

Whilst some might well argue that there can be no gradation on issues of morality, it does not appear far fetched to argue that the witting or unwitting diversion of scarce resources to those who can better do from those with no alternative is far more morally indefensible than say, dancing or public trading on Sundays.

Our community in general is well aware of Jesus’ admonition of those who chose to bury the talents bestowed upon to them (missed/forgone opportunities) as well as the fate that befell the rich man who failed to heed the plight of the beggar.

As we prepare to head into a new year it might well be a good idea for each and every segment of our community to take an honest introspective look at how we can more adequately generate the required funding to meet the need for public goods and services from the resources around us.

As part of this resolve we may wish to let the EU know that the funding requested could be more deservingly deployed where the need is significantly more acute.

If we as a community develop the vision, honesty and resolve necessary to take such an action and to forcefully engage in objective dialogue with a view to determining practical and equitable approaches to the funding of the provision of public goods, the new year may yet be a happy one.

Andre Iton is the Chairman of the Board for the Cayman Islands Development Bank and the Managing Director of Financial Integrated Services

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