Thursday, January 15, 2009

In the Mail: More Reality Check

Yesterday I used some statistics supplied by the Economist to posit that perhaps Israel isn't about to collapse.

An anonymous reader pointed out, however, that Israel is much less generous in handing out international aid than the size of its economy warrants, ranking only 98th instead of a much more reasonable 20-something.

Which is true. Moreover, it's not something to be proud of. Israel should do better at assisting the poorest nations (and now that I've read Jeffrey Sachs, I even know what sort of things need to be done with the money). I emphasized that sentence, so as partially to override the next one:


There's often a But. In this case, three. The first is that while Israel's GDP is impressively high, it does have an expense or two most rich countries don't have in comparable proportions. Such as the need to maintain a real army, which I hardly need to explain. According to the Economist book of figures, Israel is 4th in the world in the proportion of its GDP spent on defense, at 7.9%. The first three, by the way, are Myanmar, Oman and Saudi Arabia - interesting, isn't it? In real terms, Israel defense expenditure in 2006 was 17th in the world. Such numbers can put a crimp in your ability to lavish support on countries that are less well off.

It's also curious - or not - to note that with standing armies arranged by size, Israel isn't on the list at all as cited by the Economist. Apparently the IDF aims at prowess based on brain over brawn.

The second reason Israel is too stingy with aid is historical. Back in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, when the Communist and Arab worlds both made great efforts to harm Israel in any international forum (the communists have desisted of late, I notice), Israel really really wanted friends, and so invested large sums and efforts in assisting mostly African countries. In October 1973, as Israel fought against Syrian and Egyptian attacks dozens of these countries severed their relations with Israel, for whatever reason.

Spitting in the eye of your benefactor is not polite, and if the erstwhile benefactor still remembers the affront many years later, you really only have yourself to blame.

Actually, however, it's not even a 35-year-old-stale story. Of the top 20 aid recipients in 2006, only four are not either African countries who severed their relations with Israel in 1973, or countries that don't have such relations today, or both. If you look at the entire list of 68 countries which receive lots of aid, the proportions aren't much better.

Apparently, many of the poorest countries in the world have no qualms about being anti-Israel. A pity, actually.

Computers per 100 people:
Israel is at the top of the list, with 122.1 computers for every 100 people. Canada, second place, is way behind with 87.6.

Mobile phones per 100 people: with 122.7, Israelis have even more mobile phones than computers, but in this case rank only 8th. Lithuania is the first.

Though, come to think of it, more and more mobile phones are computers....


Anonymous said...


I'm the anonymous reader who posted the GDP vs AId stats. I think you misunderstood those figures and why i posted them. They are not aid donated as a % of GDP, they are a aid received as a proportion of GDP. This was in support of your argument that israel is not dependent on foreign aid.

Yaacov said...

Ach soooo -

Even better. But in the meantime, I hope my post will be informative for someone out there..

Old Patriot said...

RE: Jeffrey Sachs. I've read several exerpts from his works, and find them all wanting. There are two essentials for prosperity - individual freedom and respect for personal property. Without those, nothing a group of people do will matter, since it can be taken from them by someone else considered higher on the food chain. Only by respecting personal freedom and property can wealth beyond the needs of the day be accumulated. The same is true of inheritance: if one group of people cannot accumulate wealth their children can inherit, they won't accumulate wealth. Without wealth greater than the needs of the day, there can be no investment, no initiative, and no climb from poverty. Case in point: look at the history of the Jews and the "palestinian refugees".