Jeffrey Sachs, a prominent economist and frequent critic of globalization, has argued that $70 billion a year in development aid is needed to lift people out of extreme poverty. This figure would require all members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an organization of the richest, most industrialized economies in the world, donate 0.7% of their Gross National Product (GNP – a measure of the total wealth produced in the national economy each year) to development aid. Currently, few OECD countries meet this goal, with only Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands and Luxembourg giving 0.7% or more. The U.S. gives the most overall amount (because it has the largest economy), but contributes only about 0.2% of GNP to development aid. Behind these variations in levels of aid, are different views on what obligations the rich countries owe the poor.
What obligations, if any, do citizens and governments of wealthy countries owe those living in poor countries? What are the limits of this obligation? In other words, how much should wealthy countries do to assist the poor around the world? Should the U.S. give more in development aid? Should, as some groups have argued, there be a global tax on financial transactions to help fund economic development in poorer countries?
I would argue that wealthy countries should aid the citizens of poor countries not because they have lawful obligations but out of a moral sense of duty. In various instances, due to corruption and ineffective governance, the governments of poorer states are unable to tackle problems, provide employment, or fund development initiatives. The citizens of these states are not to blame for their governments’ failures; however, they are left to deal with the consequences. Women and children are disproportionately affected by extreme poverty. Every wealthy state that can give its people a decent quality of life should try to export their knowledge and benefits to less fortunate states. International social norms should recognize the collective benefit of eradicating poverty worldwide.
Fortunate citizens of developed states should join their governments in providing aid through donation campaigns, NGOs, philanthropy, etc. The upper class should be expected to contribute the most. People and governments can step up their contribution to fight global poverty.
Richer states should donate more because they have more to give. As the wealthiest country, the United States can afford to give more than 0.7% of its GNP. Likewise, the European Union also has the capabilities to donate and fund developing countries to a greater extent than most. Moreover, richer countries can help by exporting their knowledge and research ideas. Teaching poor countries how to produce for themselves and maintain their economic sectors is just as important as donating money. Developing healthcare is of prime importance when addressing child mortality, maternal mortality, diseases, epidemics, reproduction, etc. Education is needed to teach poorer nations how to take care of their well-being, finances, families.
I support the economic development in poorer countries; however, I do not believe that a global tax on financial transactions is the right way to approach the issue. Its enforcement will be difficult to achieve and manage. Governments will be reluctant to create a supranational body to monitor the collection of taxes and their redistribution. In addition, fiscal conservatives and republican governments will be opposed to the measure. Instead, tax evasion through loopholes by multinational corporations should be adequately addressed.
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