Economics - General

How much does your country help the third world?

The Center for Global Development has an interesting measure of how much twenty one first world countries are helping their counterparts in the developing world. The measure is named the Commitment to Development Index (CDI). The index ranks each country the basis of seven categories: aid, trade, investment, migration, the environment, security and technology. More details on each category is listed below.

  • Aid: The score is calculated based on the on total aid as a percentage of total gross national income, but total aid figured is modified to penalize donors “…for giving aid to rich or corrupt governments, for overburdening recipients with lots of small aid projects, or for “tying” aid, which forces recipients to spend it on the donor country’s own goods rather than shop around for the lowest price.” (U.S. rank: 19/21)
  • Trade: This figure weighs the amount of import tariffs against the amount of first world subsidies to domestic farmers. (U.S. rank: 2/19)
  • Investment: This category ranking is based on a questionnaire regarding first world country policies regarding investment in developing nations. (U.S. rank: 7/19)
  • Immigration: The immigration score measures the ease with which an individual from a poor country can migrate to the rich country, can find work or get an education in the rich country, and can send money home to relatives. (U.S. rank 12/21)
  • Environment: This score is based on a country’s greenhouse gas emissions, whether or not they have a high gas taxes, if they subsidize the fishing industry, and if imports of illegally cut tropical timber are banned. The authors claim that this category is important because developed world pollution affects the quality of life in all countries. (U.S. rank 21/21)
  • Security: The score is based on contributions to international peacekeeping and forcible humanitarian interventions, with points deducted for selling arms to authoritarian regimes. (U.S. rank 9/21)
  • Technology: “The component rewards government funding and tax breaks for research and development but penalizes certain patent and copyright rules deemed too restrictive to the flow of ideas across borders.” (U.S. Rank 13/21)

Overall, the U.S. ranked 13th out of the twenty one countries. The Netherlands had the best rankings while Japan had the worst.

While these rankings are fun to look at, the true value comes from examing the individual components of the study (see the CDI spreadsheet). For instance, the average import tariff rate for the U.S. was 2.3% which was far below the average import tariff of 26.6%. On the other hand, U.S. farm subsidies are high (12.9%), almost on par with European levels (13.7%). Also, the U.S. gives the largest amount of gross aid to the developing world ($22 billion), but as a percentage of gross national income, the U.S. is the stingiest country (only 0.19%). Further, much of the aid is tied to political objectives.