Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing/Tsunami Day

From Mr. Steyn
One year ago -- Dec. 26, 2004 -- a tsunami walloped a huge swathe of the world from Indonesia all the way to Africa. Some 300,000 people were swept to their deaths, from the grandson of the king of Thailand and the daughter and granddaughter of film director Richard Attenborough to Njoroge, a Nairobi car mechanic, who picked the wrong day for his first visit to the beautiful East African coast and died a statistical fluke, his country's solitary fatality from the disaster.
Across the Western world, TV viewers reached into their wallets, chipped in the best part of $5 billion, and left it in the hands of the United Nations and the "nongovernmental organizations," the world's self-proclaimed moral consciences.
You'll recall that, immediately after the tsunami, Jan Egeland, the Norwegian bureaucrat and big U.N. humanitarian honcho, gave a press conference attacking the "stinginess" of wealthy nations, like the Great Satan. Given that, at that moment, Mr. Egeland's vast, permanent 24/7 "humanitarian relief" bureaucracy was focusing on giving press conferences in New York, while the only actual "relief effort" was conducted ad hoc by the Pentagon and the Royal Australian Navy, his remarks seemed a little churlish, to say the least.....

I don't pretend to be an expert in the Indonesian fishing industry. I pretend to be an expert in Islamic terrorism and U.S. foreign policy and a bunch of other stuff, and believe me that's hard enough without trying to feign expertise in the watery economy of Banda Aceh.
So who ought to be the experts? Well, how about Jan Egeland and his U.N. staff? These guys get full-time salaries to think about nothing but international disaster relief, and yet the best they can do when disaster strikes is stand in front of a camera in New York and announce they're sending someone to the region for an "assessment" of the "situation," just as soon as the U.S. Air Force emergency team have flown in and restored room service to the five-star hotel.
It was obvious at the time that Western TV viewers had donated more money than could ever be usefully spent. Even so, it's fascinating to learn quite the multitude of ways in which the dough was squandered. Hitherto somnolent bureaucracies cranked themselves into action for lean mean Tsunami shakedown operations. Oxfam paid the best part of a million bucks to Sri Lankan customs for the privilege of having 25 four-wheel-drive vehicles allowed into the country to get aid out to remote villages on washed-out roads hit by the Boxing Day tsunami. Your charitable donations at work, folks.
In fact, Mr. Egeland was wrong. Had Western nations been more "stingy," the aid might have been better targeted and more effective. As it was, your average Third World kleptocrat official quickly figured out every NGO on the planet was trying to catch his eye by waving large amounts of dollar bills.
Next time it might be easier just to eliminate the middle man and have Bongo and Sting and Sir Bob Geldof and Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney hold an all-star fundraising gala for the Indonesian Customs Inspectors' Retirement Fund.

Italics Mine


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