INTRODUCTION The only beneficiaries of development assistance in the Pacific are transnational corporations. Taxpayers in the donor countries pay for development aid directly of course but pay in important indirect ways as well. The islanders suffer being tricked from resort-like paradise into squalor. Transnational corporations, primarily big oil and big agriculture companies, but others as well, receive the money in the end.
DONORS The vast majority of citizens of the donor nations lose not only money, but the integrity of their values and the benefits of global cultural diversity, with almost nothing to compensate for these losses. These donor nations are primarily the USA in Micronesia, France in the whole eastern South Pacific as well as New Caledonia, New Zealand in the Central South Pacific especially the Cook Islands Niue and Tokelau, and Australia in Melanesia. The European Union, Japan, Taiwan and China also distribute aid over the area, so although this essay is focused on US aid to The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), via the Compact of Free Association, the issue is wider. In all, the amount of aid per capita in the Pacific is much higher than any other region in the world1.(please read the footnotes at the end of the essay for evidence)
Assistance takes the form of both financial support and encouraging economic migration. Migration is supported both by US immigration law, which doesn’t limit or regulate migration from FSM, and by the creation of consumer desires which motivates migration. One third of all Micronesians live in the USA mostly in Guam and Hawaii. The US federal government pays Guam and Hawaii specifically for the costs of hosting Micronesian immigrants and both are forcefully demanding more of this compensation largely to pay the high cost of housing Micronesians in correctional institutions2. So it is difficult to claim that these migrants are a net benefit to the US.
The greatest loss to America as a result of aid is in the hypocritical defiance of widely held and stated values. The missionaries of a hundred years ago are almost universally disdained as destroyers of exotic cultures3 but they were harmless compared to today’s aid givers who have the same missionary goal of bestowing the benefits of a supposedly superior culture. Before, the key feature of superior culture was considered to be Christianity, now it’s identified as economic development – money and consumerism4, a judgement no less subjective and ethnocentric. Unlike the missionaries of a hundred years ago, today’s mission is self-righteously annihilating cultures down to the means of sustenance replacing independent self-sufficiency with dependent consumerism, and depopulating entire islands and communities moving the populations into urban slum areas practicing mainstream urban culture5. For America to do this is the abnegation of clearly stated values and the loss of the integrity of doing what one says one believes. Likewise few Americans wish for empire and would scoff at equating charity with imperialism but when a people’s culture is utterly eliminated and replaced with dependency on foreign aid and imported products this is an extreme form of “cultural imperialism”, and again represents hypocrisy.
The global loss of cultural diversity is a loss to the donor countries. Multiculturalism within one country is a different issue from global cultural diversity. The United Nations has stated that cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature6. A diversity of cultures allows curious people to experience entirely different worldviews to their mind opening benefit. Alternative life style communities, which some of us prefer to the over-consumer life7, cease to exist with the homogenization of world culture. Humanity is losing the textures which tourists seek. The donor countries are even coming close to committing international crime8 by intentionally destroying cultural diversity.
Donor countries are also harming themselves through foreign aid since, by financing others to overconsume, resources are used up the faster.9 Contrarily, if a significant part of humanity was to wake up to the quality of life improvements possible in a cooperative post-industrial, post-consumer, economy, then traditional Pacific Islands culture could be a valuable highly evolved model.
Possible benefits to America from heavily supporting FSM have been suggested. Military basing is often proposed but implausible. Micronesia has no significant or belligerent countries within a thousand miles. While there is zero American military personnel or infrastructure within FSM there are American soldiers based all around the West and North of FSM at Guam, Kwajalein, Australia, Philippines, S Korea and Japan, plus abandoned bases at Johnson Atoll and other Pacific islands. To be clear, these real bases, along with the heavily Americanized and supported Palau, are between FSM and the potential belligerents China and N Korea. To the South and East of FSM are only small island nations and the allies France and New Zealand for seven thousand miles. Exclusion of China from FSM is the most favored rational for American involvment. China already donates heavily here so is not excluded in that sense. Chinese military bases? China has no foreign military bases at all not even in unamericanized island countries such as Kiribati and Vanuatu. Maybe if all the islanders leave or are bought off then snazzy beach resorts could be built on the atolls, not for me but for more ordinary rich consumer Americans? There are failed and empty beach resorts all over the tropics, including Micronesia. Anyway if the US had a special secret plan for Micronesia it would not explain why the rest of the Pacific Island Nations receive disproportionate aid as well, even less significant Tuvalu being third most patronized in the world.
America gains in only one way from its project in Micronesia. That is by spreading, in a small way, its guilt for over consumption. For example, when Tuvalu or another small island nation complains eloquently, as it does, about having its nation submerged through excessive fossil fuel consumption, one photo of its capital Funafuti with a hundred overpowered speedboats lined up on its beaches is an effective counter argument.
“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” — Bertrand Russell
ISLANDER RECIPIENTS Islanders lose their entire cultural identity to development assistance including all of their cultural goods, services and activities, independence, quality of life, healthy values and, worst of all, they lose their self-esteem.
Development assistance in the Pacific isn’t doing anything like feeding the hungry or providing safe drinking water. Pacific islanders traditionally exist in a setting of great plenty10. Aid also does not result in the development of exports or foreign exchange. On the contrary, in Pohnpei; which is jammed tight with the SUVs of foreign development specialists, missionaries, volunteers and NGOs; exports and tourism have both declined during the years of steadily increasing aid11. Aid pays the salaries of government office holders in a very bloated buracracy12. The office holders distribute the bounty through the domestic service economy, mainly retailing, and it goes to purchase cars, motorboats, fuel, imported food, tin roofing and other consumer items.
It is often said by foriegners that islanders choose the modern consumer life but this is incorrect. Micronesians are offered a distorted choice of tradition, spending a couple of hours per day in gardening, fishing and handicrafts; or “the modern way”, working even less, taking money for nothing, and buying what they need13. This is a trick and when faced with the reality of life in the less subsidised consumer world of America the islanders do not, as a whole, adapt well14, 2, 5. Opportunities to become educated and productive in non-traditional ways abound in Micronesia but are rarely availed15. A tiny minority choose to work hard and live a more modern industrial life, like my friends, Faletiute’s sons in Funafuti, and clearing away the distraction of easy dependency improves the outlook for this few16. Most islanders however will accept a handout and dependency but not the high production forty hour work week, and why should they?. Evidence for the rejection of the work-a-day life by islanders is in the consistent failure of enterprises17 as well as in the refusal to learn non traditional subjects.
The unambitious can live a far more beautiful, enjoyable, healthy and efficient life traditionally than by being “lifted out of poverty” into the urban squalor and neurosis of dependency, and this correction can be easily achieved. When money for nothing is unavailable the great majority of islanders live the traditional leisurely subsistence affluent life retaining their culture18. Preservation of Pacific culture preserves the quality of life and self-esteem of pacific islanders. The Pacific islands were glorified for centuries by Europeans as paradise and they should be still19. With much leisure time islanders evolved a life of highly refined social graces and pleasures, including the famous drumming and dancing such as hula, and emphasising cooperation, generosity and hospitality as sources of honor and pride. Inflexibly ethnocentric, brainwashed foreigners arrive with the assumption that the islanders’ culture is so inferior that they would die without the white man’s handouts20. An incredibly ignorant, racist21 and insulting presumption but virtually universal. The islanders with their emphasis on indolence and tolerance accept the handouts and insults and even play along22, until the game of seeing what they can get out of the insulting white man becomes habitual. A culture based on producing what is needed changes into one that is shaped around living off and exploiting foreigners. Taking the place of cooperation is competition. Taking the place of hospitality is begging and demanding23. Taking the place of pride is low self-esteem. Taking the place of Pacific culture is ghetto culture.
BENEFICIERIES Transnational corporations gain. Instead of making and doing things islanders who have been “lifted out of poverty” buy things. Instead of cool breezy thatched houses like the rich tourists get in Bora Bora, less comfortable (frequently said by islanders) houses are made of purchased high energy unfinished concrete block, plywood and metal roofing. Instead of walking barefoot on beaches islanders sit idly behind the wheel in traffic jambs burning petroleum and feeling modern. Instead of skillfully building and sailing sleek technically exquisite outrigger canoes they ride passively in clumsy overpowered fiberglass motorboats sold by Yamaha. Instead of eating healthy fresh local food they eat unhealthy imported processed food sold by Archer Daniels Midlands (ADM feeding the world), Kellogs, General Mills etc. There are epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and noncommunicable diseases throughout the pacific24. A market has been developed for the transnational corporations which runs on development assistance, soaks up tax dollars from donor countries and augments urban blight there while wrecking the lives of less industrialized people. More important than the small number of additional customers gained, the corporations win by eliminating the threatening example of a free and independent, happy, healthy, non-consumer lifestyle.
CONCLUSIONS Development aid should be opposed by liberals especially. Having followed the money, we can see why development assistance exists. But why do ordinary liberal Americans favor sending money to affluent satisfied Islanders driving around in expensive cars and powerful speedboats? The missing link is the dominance of big business in the media. Much of the media, including TV and the internet, is financed entirely by marketing, which is in the programing as well as in the blatant advertising. The reason so much money is spent on marketing is because it works. And there is constant messaging framing subsistence as the desperate hopeless filthy starving etc. (including by Hollywood stars furthering the liberality hoax). This is the mechanism of big money brainwashing.
Superficially, aid consists of money given by the rich white people to the poor people of color, consistent with liberal values. But fairly evaluating a policy requires considering the consequences of the policy. The consequences of aid are the destruction of cultural diversity in the course of the transfer of wealth from the middle class to the most wealthy. A conservative might favor this process but a liberal who understands it will oppose it adamantly.
Some guidelines for visitors to unruined subsistence affluent islands for reducing harmful influence.
- Don’t ever give money for nothing or virtually nothing. There is a sign for tourists on an often visited island requesting, “Please don’t give ‘tips’ to the children. We don’t want them to develop bad habits”
- Read in public to set an example. Literacy is the real way to grow and become modern in the best sense.
- Work in public. I got this idea from an African studies textbook which had a picture of a white man in a litter carried by a dozen “natives”. Is this the way to success? Any physical activity like walking, rowing, swimming helps to correct the stereotypes of people from over-industrialized countries, is rarely seen, and healthier anyway
- Show an interest in local cultures and try to learn. If you are uninterested in a culture, don’t go there. Most yachties express disdain for island cultures. They should go only to the tourist boutique resort areas that they can enjoy.
- Forget the idea that you should teach everyone and help everyone to be like your own exceptional self. The evangelical over-consumer countries have created global resource depletion, environmental catastrophes, economic bubbles, and cultural annihilation. You could learn from less harmful people how to live with quiet grace.
Notes: The Kaselelia Press is the FSM newspaper. The word means “hello” in the Pohnpein language.
Francis X Hezel, a Jesuit Priest, was a foremost expert on Micronesia and founder of the Micronesian Seminar, an academic center in Pohnpei.
1.” Today, as in the past, Pacific Island nations receive more aid per capita than any other region in the world Campbell, I.C. 1992. A Historical Perspective on Aid and Dependency.” Pacific Studies 15 (3):59
Total and per capita aid flows by region
||Total aid flows
||Average annual aid flows
||per capita 1995-1999
||US 1998 million dollars
||US 1998 dollars
|Other East Asia
|Middle East and North Africa
Source: The Development Assistance Committee, Development Co-operation Reports, 1971 -2000, OECD Paris.
Astonished, I found more detailed, current data. In 2010 the top five receivers of official developement assistance were all paradisiacal small island nations, (in current US dollars / capita)
|Marshall Is 1677
||Haiti(after earthquake) 308
The world Bank. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/DT.ODA.ODAT.PC.ZS?display=default
2. Washington, D.C. – The Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, Tony Babauta, has authorized $3.5 million in Compact Impact grant funding to support the Guam Department of Corrections’ (DOC) efforts to offset the cost of providing inmate housing to Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrants. “I am pleased to be assisting the Department of Corrections in supplementing their existing budget. The Calvo Administration, as well as members of the Guam Legislature, have raised the challenges confronting the Department, given the facility’s population of freely associated state citizens… Kaselelia Press April 17, 2012
3. The “prime directive” on “Star Trek” was noninterference with less technologically advanced civilizations so that development can occur naturally and internally. The show’s creator stated that this was a reaction to the harm caused by missionaries in the real world. A long forgotten commitment. “Prime Directive” Wikipedia
4. Exhibiting the unquestioned determination to convert all people to supposedly superior consumer culture is socially required use of the terms “developed countries”(a completed ideal) and “developing countries”(striving to become the ideal) to refer to consumer cultures and independent cultures respectively.
5. Urban culture, or ghetto culture, doesn’t only exist in urban areas. Although associated with young minorities in industrialised countries it has spread through all races young and old around the world; the dominant, most influential culture in the world. It is connected to dependency and characteristics include decayed housing but ostentatious consumer goods, rap, gang signs, wearing caps backwards and slack pants, exaggeratedly offensive language, tagging, crime, drugs, etc.
The connection between cultural destruction and crime in South Africa was a theme of “Cry the Beloved Country”, which is read in American High Schools: “The white man has broken the tribe. And it is my belief—and again I ask your pardon—that it cannot be mended again. But the house that is broken, and the man that falls apart when the house is broken, these are the tragic things. That is why children break the law, and old white people are robbed and beaten.” [remember – I’ve been robbed and beaten during this post-development Pacific cruise]
” Explanation for this quotation: Msimangu explains to Kumalo what he believes has gone wrong with their country: the tribal bonds have been broken, giving young men and women no reason to stay in their villages. These youths then go to Johannesburg, where they inevitably lose their way and become morally corrupt. Msimangu is very explicit about the cause-and-effect relationship that he perceives between the deterioration of black culture and crime against whites. As such, he expresses the novel’s central preoccupation with the matter of tribal structure and its important role in holding the country’s black population together.” http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/cry/quotes.html
6. The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity is a declaration adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at its thirty-first session on 2 November 2001 This Declaration is constituted by 12 Articles; Article 1 titled “Cultural diversity, the common heritage of humanity” states that “As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for the nature. In this sense, it is the common heritage of humanity and should be recognized and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generations.”
7. There is a scattering of other white people who have migrated to the more leisurely and peaceful life of the traditional Pacific. I met a Frenchman doing nothing but cutting copra in the Marquesas. An American enjoyed his last years living in a hut on remote Butaritari in Kiribati fishing for dinner in front of this hut. An Australian couple raised their children on remote Kapingamarangi in FSM living on their boat.
8. Article 7 of a 1994 draft of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples uses the phrase “cultural genocide” but does not define what it means. The complete article reads as follows: Indigenous peoples have the collective and individual right not to be subjected to ethnocide and cultural genocide, including prevention of and redress for: (a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities; (b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources; (c) Any form of population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights; (d) Any form of assimilation or integration by other cultures or ways of life imposed on them by legislative, administrative or other measures; (e) Any form of propaganda directed against them.
9. “Human society is in a ‘global overshoot’, consuming 30% more material than is sustainable from the world’s resources.” http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17569-consumerism-is-eating-the-future.html
10. “Due to the munificence of nature, development economist E. K. Fisk noted in 1982 that families in the Pacific can produce all that they can consume and provide for other needs with only a few man hours a day. This is what is meant by subsistence affluence…” Fisk, E. K. 1982. “Subsistence Affluence and Development Policy.” Regional Development Dialogue, Special Issue. Nagoya, Japan: UN Centre for Regional Development. FSM
11. “If the trade imbalance is used as an indicator, the economic situation in these two small Micronesian nations[FSM and Republic of the Marshall Islands RMI] has worsened over the past 40 years. As discussed above, imports began to outstrip exports in the early 1960s with the infusion of larger U.S. aid payments into the trust territory. Aid increased still more in the 1970s during the era of U.S. federal programs and infrastructure development, and it has risen still higher since national independence. The ratio of exports to imports was 3:1 in 1966, 4:1 in 1977, and is now 5:1 in the FSM and even higher in the RMI. These two countries are no more successful now than they ever were in finding ways to keep exports apace with their consumption from abroad. But then again, they are not compelled to, since grants account for such a large percentage of their national budget, and government spending keeps the wheels of the private sector turning.” Hezel, Francis X. S.J. “Is That the Best You Can Do? A Tale of Two Micronesian Economies.” Pacific Islands Policy, Vol.1, Honolulu: East-West Center, 2006.
12. There is a senator for each outer island of 100 – 500 persons.
Yacht clearence procedures here are far more complex involving twice the number of officials, as any of the many other countries I’ve been.
Office holders in Pohnpei do little but play Facebook and Solitaire on those rare occasions when they bother to even go to work. This has been told my by several office holders both locals and expats and also observed by me.
“Inappropriately swollen governments persist because they are funded by aid.” Hughes, H., 2003. “Aid has failed the Pacific”, Issue Analysis, No. 33, 7 May (Sydney, The Centre for Independent Studies).
13. Caucasians are seen the world over to “never work but have lots of money”, due to their heavy reliance on machinery, riding in taxis to laundromats and supermarkets to buy imported processed food. So money for nothing and inability to work is seen as the modern way, rather than the subsidised way. This has been personally stated to me by Filipinos, Latinos and Micronesians and also outlined in an African Studies textbook.
14. Americans don’t have to wait to be blamed by Micronesians for this crooked set-up. Pohnpei’s newspaper contains a letter to the editor about the large despised dysfunctional Micronesian slums in Guam and Hawaii. The author writes,”The fact of the matter is we didn’t ask to be here. We were invited. Uncle Sam … make us pathetically depended (sic) on him, and then invited us to come to America. So here we are! Whether you like it or not, that is your problem.” Kaselehlie Press 28 March 2012
15.“These test results represent not only a failing public school system but also ruined lives. Most of the 2012 graduates of the public schools are facing lifetimes of limited choice and opportunity. If this is not a national emergency, I don’t know what is,” exclaimed U.S. Ambassador to the FSM, Peter Prahar COMET Scores Paint a Bleak FSM Educational Portrait, Kaselehlie Press, May 3, 2012
16. There are lots of arguements about this subject on the site:
- Tracking data from 1991 to 2007, there is no correlation between aid received (total in $US or as % of recipient GNI) and an increase in employment rates (age 15+). Link: http://www.bit.ly/hMwJOK
- Tracking data from 1978 to 2008, there is no correlation between aid received (total in $US or as % of recipient GNI) and a decreased % of people in poverty (below $2 per day).
Two contrasting examples of aid negativity are China which, as a communist country, never received but the tiniest aid (see the table in #1 above) and Rwanda which in 1990-1993 was a darling of the development community, receiving increasing amounts of aid and foreign experts, almost until the date of its implosion.
“William Easterly [one of the two most recognized theorists, along with Jeffery sacks, on development economics] generally believes that aid has been poorly used and, along the way has even created debilitating incentives that produce dependency, economic stagnation, corruption, and regression. Global Poverty and International Development, Issue 5, October 2008 http://worldsavvy.org/monitor/index.php
See also #11 and 23
17. “Projects by the dozen have been tried in the islands: commercial growth of crops like cacao, pepper, Philippine mahogany, and decorative plants; manufacture of coconut shell buttons, furniture, and zoris; processing of banana and breadfruit chips, pickled papaya, Pohnpeian sakau, and bottled soft drinks; cultivation of clams, sponges, tropical fish, milkfish, and seaweed; sale of wood products through lumbering and sawmill operations; garment manufacturing and ferro-cement boat-making. This is just the start of a list that might go on longer than the present essay, and it does not even mention the many attempts made to establish a viable fishing industry in the islands. There are would-be tourist hotels in every stage of decay on all the major islands in the FSM, and a few others on Majuro and one or two of the outer atolls of the Marshalls.” Hezel, Francis X. S.J. “Is That the Best You Can Do? A Tale of Two Micronesian Economies.” Pacific Islands Policy, Vol.1, Honolulu: East-West Center, 2006.
18. When I asked a man at Pingalap what they will do when the compact funding ends he said they will live in the traditional way. I said to a Pohnpein man, who is an evanglical Christian and cultivates cucumbers for the domestic market, that Americans are just trying to practice christian charity and help. He said, “but making people dependent isn’t helping them.”
19.Dr Mohamad Mahathir, the former prime minister of Malaysia, and firebrand of the non-aligned movement, improbably claimed in his thesis that life on the islands and rivers of the Austronesian realm was so good and easy that the Malay evolved with inferior intelligence! This was to justify unlimited affirmative action for the Malay.
20. When Australia recently decided to slow the rate of increase in its foreign aid, radio Australia repeated every half hour that 200,000 people across the pacific would die as a result. Wouldn’t a starving person pick up one of the coconuts carpeting the islands and eat, not to mention all the breadfruit, taro, fish, the papayas fed to pigs, banana, etc. or maybe they will freeze to death?
21. A wide-spread belief among educated americans is that the best way to raise children is to give them little and force them to stand on their own two feet. These same people also believe in increasing foreign aid. There is apparently a difference between their own children’s and foreigner’s ability to stand own their own two feet – race. In American education this problem is called “low expectations” and is the standard accepted reason for poor academic outcomes among African-American students.
“It is indeed unwarranted and distasteful condescension to argue that the peoples of Eastern Europe or the third world, unlike those of the West, cannot achieve material progress without donations from abroad” Development aid : end it or mend it / Peter Bauer.(Occasional papers / International Center for Economic Growth ; no. 43) 1993
22. One rich smirking young local got in my face challenging me, “what did you come here to give us?” to which I answered, “I let you see me work”.
23. The once hospitable outer island Nukuoro has just instituted an “anchoring fee” as is becoming universal. This is not for anchoring which is done by the crew of the boat with its own equipment and consumes no local resources. It is simply money for nothing. Patronization does not result in reciprocation of giving but adoption of the American value, “greed is good” diametrically opposing island culture which focuses honor and pride on hospitality to visitors and generosity with what is plentiful. Demolishing the source of pride demolishes self-esteem.
24. “It would appear that changing lifestyle patterns during this age of affluence have been largely responsible for the increase in those non-communicable diseases that might be termed the “Big Three:” diabetes, heart problems and stroke. All three are linked with obesity, which has become a serious concern in the islands today. About 80 percent of the FSM citizens aged 35-54 screened in the survey tested as overweight” Hezel, Francis X. S.J. “Disease in Micronesia: A Historical Survey.” Pacific Health Dialogue 2010
About the photos – All were taken by myself. Most of the “before” ones at Nukufetau an atoll within Tuvalu, about 24 years ago. The exception is the house floating on taro leaves which was taken two years ago at Butaritari atoll, Kiribati. The “after” photos were taken this year at Kolonia, the one town of Pohnpei Island, FSM.