External aid policy of U.S. assailed

NEW DELHI MARCH 30. An eminent Australian scientist has criticised the external assistance policy of the U.S., which favoured direct bilateral arrangements with the recipient countries instead of providing support to multilateral agencies and programmes.

Delivering a lecture here, Gustav Nossal, renowned for his work in vaccine research, referred to the recent announcement of the U.S. President, George W. Bush, of a public health programme, under which the U.S. had proposed to provide $ 15 billions to several countries as bilateral aid to boost their health infrastructure.

Lamenting that the U.S. has proposed the new funding programme even while the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria launched a year ago and backed by the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, was faced with a resource crunch, Sir Nossal said bilateral assistance is usually used as a foreign policy tool and to boost the industry in the donor countries.

"This (the bilateral assistance programme) is very different from the coordinated multilateral Global Fund Programme. The difference is not trivial. Frequently, bilateral aid has been used by rich countries as a tool of foreign policy and even as a tool of industry support, ensuring that much of the wealth returns to the donor country''.

During the lecture hosted by the Australia-India Council and the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCEAR) in memory of Sir John Crawford, who made significant contributions to the green revolution in Indian agriculture, he said it was essential that the developed countries handled their overseas development process in a sensitive manner, in a spirit of true partnership with the developing countries as it could provide a strong antidote to hatred, terrorism and war.

"The root causes of terrorism and hatred towards the U.S. in particular are obviously very complex. But, it is difficult to escape the view that gross disparities in living standards in a networked world where even remote villages become conscious of them threaten global stability. There may therefore be selfish as well as humanitarian reasons for promoting global equity through a new kind of engagement with developing countries''.

Sir Nossal, who is at present Chairman of the Strategic Advisory Council of Children's Vaccine Programme of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, emphasised the need for greater involvement of the private sector in improving the health of the people. The pharmaceutical industry, for instance, could play a major role by making available their products to developing countries at sharply reduced prices.

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