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New York Times says US is stingy


NEW YORK, Dec 30: The New York Times said on Thursday that the United States has been stingy in its response to the tsunami disaster and in giving aid in general.

The newspaper highlighted in an editorial that the 15 million dollars initially offered by Washington was less than the figure the ruling Republican Party would spend on President George Bush's inauguration next month.

Mr Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have given indignant reactions to a comment by UN chief disaster relief coordinator Jan Egeland that rich nations have been "stingy" in giving aid to poorer nations. "We beg to differ," said the New York Times. "Mr Egeland was right on target."

"We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to ameliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute 15 million dollars.

"That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities." The administration has since increased its aid to 35 million dollars. But the Times said the 35 million dollars remains "a miserly drop in the bucket".

The newspaper also highlighted the disparity in development aid given by the United States and the European Union. Last year, the US government gave 16.2 billion dollars, while the EU gave 37.1 billion dollars. It said that in 2002, the figure was 29.9 billion dollars for Europe and 13.2 billion dollars for the United States.

LE FIGARO: One of France's leading daily newspapers, Le Figaro, sided with criticism that the United States had been "stingy" in its aid pledges over the Asian tsunami disaster, comparing the sum promised to the amount spent on pet food and Iraq military operations.

President George Bush's initial promise to release just 15 million dollars in emergency aid was "completely ridiculous given the magnitude of the catastrophe", an editorial said. That sum represented "less than half the daily sales of dog and cat food in the United States", it said.

Put another way, it was "one-tenth of the daily cost of the war in Iraq for the US army" or "half the price of a new F-16 fighter jet", it said. It noted that Washington had "hastily" doubled the aid amount to 35 million dollars once a UN spokesman castigated wealthy countries generally for being "stingy", but said the global public relations damage had already been done.

"Its image as a superpower - whether a bullying one or a caring one - is at stake," Le Figaro said, adding that the US prestige in Asia has probably taken a hit. France, the newspaper said, had given proportionally much more, though it opined that Asia's economic prospects might have driven the "diplomatic gesture" behind that sum.