Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Other measures

What's the best way of measuring contributions to the asian tsunami? The easiest one is in absolute terms, comparing dollar figures. On this measure, Japan is the most generous, followed by the US and then Norway - though this is expected to change tomorrow, with Germany taking the top spot and Australia - a country with less than a tenth of America's population - pushing the US into fourth place. An alternative method which gives a better idea of generosity is to correct for population, giving dollars per capita. A table of how the various donors stack up on this measure can be found here, and it is less than flattering to some nations that like to think of themselves as generous (including New Zealand). A third method is to compare donations by donor government's ability to pay, as measured by GDP. In response to a request from NZ Political Comments I was planning to do a quick table of this using the figures from Wikipedia, but their GDP figures look a little dubious (especially for NZ). Fortunately, an anonymous commenter has saved me the effort of researching better ones and effectively done it for me. So here's the comparison, using their figures for GDP, and updated with the latest figures for donations:

(US$ millions)
(US$ billions)
% of GDP
Saudi Arabia302880.0104
South Korea508580.00583

(South Korea's GDP figure from the CIA World Factbook)

As for usefulness, there's obviously a strong correlation between this and the per-capita rankings, which you'd expect, as richer countries can obviously give more per head. The real difference is in the bottom of the table, where the US drops about four places because, frankly, it can afford to give more.

Update (06/01/05): Updated Germany and Australia.

Update 2 (07/01/05): Updated Saudi Arabia.

Update 3 (15/01/05): Added Kuwait, Taiwan and Belgium, and updated Austria. Unfortunately the "one China" policy corrupts even the CIA factbook, so Taiwan's GDP figure (source here) may not be entirely comparable.

Update 4 (18/01/05): Updated New Zealand's contribution.


This may sound like nit-picking, but do you know if these figures include services like defence and civilian prsonnel, field hospitals, transport etc etc?

Posted by Alan : 1/05/2005 10:37:00 PM

The contribution figures? Cash pledges only, not including asssistance in kind. Though it is common practice amongst donor nations to count the costs of such assistance against their contribution.

The wikipedia article linked above mentions who has contributed direct, physical assistance, and the US is by far ahead on that score. There's no question that those helicopters have saved lives, and it is certainly a far better use for their military than murdering children.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/05/2005 11:00:00 PM

I doubt their operations in indonesia etc are significantly detracting from their child murdering capacity.
Most likely those troups and equipment would just be involved in training otherwise.

Posted by Genius : 1/06/2005 12:20:00 AM

"Just involved in training" is a lot more important than it sounds. For every unit on active deployment, you need one gearing up to replace it and one recovering after being replaced. ATM the US Army can barely keep to this schedule (it is so stretched that it has activated core training units for active deployment). I'm not sure about the Marines though, and I don't think the Navy has any real problems.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/06/2005 07:30:00 AM

I'm starting to get a bad case of cognitive dissonance from Howard's approach to this disaster.

Posted by Alan : 1/06/2005 04:46:00 PM