Contributions continue to pour in for relief efforts in Haiti. Nine days after the massive earthquake struck, donors have contributed more than $355-million to 35 American nonprofit groups that are providing aid to people in Haiti, a Chronicle tally finds.
The pace of giving for Haiti is running ahead of the amount donated in the same period after the Asian tsunami in 2004, but slower than the outpouring of gifts after the flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In the eight days after the flooding started in New Orleans, Americans gave at least $580-million for relief efforts. In the nine days after the Asian tsunamis, major U.S. relief groups raised $163-million.
This is heartening news.
But I wanted to consider these figures side by side with another big story at the moment: bank bonuses.
Here are a couple of recent articles –
US investment bank Goldman Sachs is expected to reveal a pay and bonus pot of $20bn (£12.3bn) for 2009 tomorrow, reigniting the row over City pay and taking the total amount being paid out by Wall Street financiers to more than $65bn. – The Guardian
Wall Street bank Morgan Stanley has set aside $14.4bn (£8.8bn) to pay its employees after returning to profitability last year, amounting to an average payout of $235,000 to each of its staff members. – The Guardian
It’s pretty striking isn’t it?
The financial sector’s bonus system has been widely blamed for helping precipitate a global financial crisis, leading to staggering payouts by taxpayers to keep the system afloat. Now the same institutions are paying their employees record breaking bonuses, in multiple billions.
At the same time, a short hop from Miami, an entire country is on its knees, millions are destitute, and US generosity has reached $355 million.
I don’t want to downplay the very real generosity of the many who have donated, and I realise that the comparison is misleading. But still – money is money, people are people, and there is something profoundly wrong with such blatant, staggering inequality.
Nothing new here, I suppose. Western governments are already looking for ways to reign in the excess.
But coincidences of timing, juxtapositions, can help us consider the human condition in a new light, and help us craft better ways of doing things. At the very least, I do hope some of these bonus recipients spare a thought – and a few dollars – for their fellow human beings just across the water. After all, it might make them feel a little better about themselves.
UPDATE In response to these musings, my friend Andrew Clark, a Guardian writer, passed on this interesting link from the US Chamber of Commerce. It lists individual donations given by corporations, which have now topped $100m. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs each gave $1million.
Calls are growing for the cancellation of Haiti’s debt.
The ONE campaign has set up a petition site here. It had reached 138,000 as of writing.
Dear Finance Ministers, IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and bilateral creditors, As Haiti rebuilds from this disaster, please work to secure the immediate cancellation of Haiti’s $1 billion debt and ensure that any emergency earthquake assistance is provided in the form of grants, not debt-incurring loans.
Also, this from the Jubilee debt campaign:
Donations are flooding in to Haiti after the devastating earthquake that struck on 12 January. But every day money is still flowing out of the country, to repay Haiti’s remaining debts.
After the earthquake which has left an estimated 200,000 dead, Jubilee Debt Campaign is calling for urgent cancellation of Haiti’s debt as the country attempts to recover from this disaster.
In June 2009, thanks to the efforts of Jubilee supporters, two thirds ($1.2 billion) of Haitian debt was cancelled. However as the deal only included debts accrued up to 2004, loans drawn since that time have been adding to national debt. As the UN launches an appeal for more than $550 million in aid, Haiti has $891 million debt remaining on its books.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has offered Haiti a $100 million LOAN in response to the disaster, with unacceptable conditions attached.