The Countries That Give (And Receive) the Most Government Aid

In a world with vast disparities between rich and poor, tens of billions of dollars worth of aid is exchanged between nations. Citing 2014 data from the OECD, an international organization comprised mostly of wealthy countries, The Economist provides an interactive map showing which governments are donating to the most countries and how much they give to each recipient.

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Among the 41 donor countries that provided data in 2014 to the OECD, Japan leads as the broadest provider of support, sending development aid to 141 countries and territories. The U.S. is second, with 132 beneficiaries, though it donated the most overall (given that it is the richest country by a wide margin).

However, small budgets did not necessarily correlated with stinginess: tiny but fairly wealthy Luxembourg gave to 74 countries, while the Netherlands and the Scandinavian nations dedicated the highest percentage of GDP to aid.

The most popular beneficiaries were Afghanistan, China, the Palestinian territories and Uganda, each of which received aid from 35 countries.

As more countries get wealthier — and seek to exercise more influence abroad — lots of recipients are becoming donors. According to The Economist:

In 2014, Turkey dished out aid to more countries than Britain did; Thailand was ahead of Canada. Data on the largesse of developing countries, however, are often lacking (and therefore missing from our chart). Brazil, India, Indonesia and Mexico—which received aid from more than 20 countries each—are among the many recipient countries that also send aid abroad, according to the OECD. In all likelihood, China would appear near the top of the ranking of donors: in 2010-12 it gave to a whopping 121 countries, according to official sources.

A cynical interpretation of this pattern is that government aid is just another form of influence peddling. State aid agencies, despite rarely taking up more than a sliver of most national budgets, are often criticized for being political instruments, serving as a vehicle for business investment or a way to buy off or pressure politicians from recipient nations. While I do not doubt that many of the folks who run or staff these agencies are well meaning, there is probably some kernel of truth to the idea that politicians otherwise use state aid as part of their geopolitical toolkit.

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