Malaysia as Chair should convene emergency meeting of OIC to raise US$1-2 billion from its oil-rich member nations in aid of the stricken peoples and countries of the Asian tsunamis catastrophe
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Thursday): Malaysia as Chair should convene an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) to raise US$1-2 billion from its oil-rich member nations in aid of the stricken peoples and nations of the Asian tsunamis catastrophe, which had killed more than 150,000 people, injured 500,000, rendered five million homeless with the warning by the World Health Organisation to the international tsunami summit in Jakarta today that the death toll could double to about 300,000 unless action was taken this week to prevent disease.
It has not escaped notice of the world or their conscientious local opinion-makers that oil-rich Gulf Arab states, home to millions of Asian workers, have so far pledged less than US$93 million to victims of the Asian tsunami disaster despite reaping six times as much in crude revenues daily.
This is not even two per cent of the global pledges of tsunami aid which is now nearly US$4 billion – when the oil-rich OIC members should have been prepared to shoulder some US$2 billion of tsunami aid.
Australia now leads the table of major government pledges – including loans and grants – by promising US$764 million, followed by Germany’s US$674 million, Japan’s US$500 million and the United States’ US$350 million.
Other official tsunami aid pledges include: Asian Development Bank US$325 million , World Bank US$250 million, Norway US$183 million, France US$103 million, Britain US$96 million, Italy US$95 million, Sweden US$80 million, Spain US$68 million, Canada US$67 million, Denmark US$66 million, China US$61 million, Taiwan US$50 million, South Korea, US$50 million; European Union, US$40 million; Netherlands, US$34 million; Switzerland, US$23 million; Belgium US$16 million, Ireland, US$14 million; Portugal, US$11 million; Austria US$11 million, Luxembourg US$6.8 million, Finland US$6 million, New Zealand US$3.6 million, Singapore US$ 3 million, Greece US$1.34 million, Hungary US$1.2 million and Poland US$1.0 million.
Donations from the the predominantly Muslim nations are: Saudi Arabia US$30 million, Qatar US$25 million; United Arab Emirates US$20 million, Kuwait US$10 million; Algeria, US$2 million; Bahrain, US$2 million; Libya, US$2 million and Turkey US$1.25 million.
Some observations are in order:
1. Statement by Chairman of the of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, (Republican), that the United States tsunami aid may hit billions of dollars to help Asia recover from the devastating December 26 tsunami.
2. World Bank President James Wolfensohn said on Sunday that the World Bank may double or triple the US$250 million it has pledged for reconstruction in the Indian Ocean basin after the devastating December 26 tsunami.
3. Undertaking by the United Kingdom government to dramatically increase its tsunami aid to hundreds of millions of dollars.
4. The outpouring of generosity by ordinary humanity and private donors which in many countries not only match but exceeded government tsunami pledges.
5. The urgent need for an effective international mechanism to ensure that countries honour their pledges. A little over a year ago, donors promised Iran more than US$1 billion in relief after an earthquake killed 26,000 people, but just US$17.5 million or less than a quarter of 1 per cent of the pledged amount has materialized so far.
There is however the dark cloud in the generous and humanitarian global response to the Asian tsunami catastrophe – the cold and indifferent attitudes prevailing in the oil-rich OIC countries in Middle East.
Kuwait, which is running a US$10 billion budget surplus and recently distributed US$700 million to its citizens because of the doubling of the price of oil, is only offering US$10 million as tsunami aid. It originally offered US$1 million, then another million, and then raised it to the current amount after a local newspaper wrote that Kuwait apparently “deserved its reputation of being cheap”.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, started with a pledge of US$10 million – equal to a donation by seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher – before announcing on Tuesday that it was tripling that amount and organizing a telethon to raise more funds.
Added to Kuwait’s US$10 million, Qatar’s US$25 million and UAE’s US$20 million, that took the total pledges by the four oil producers to US$85 million, compared to some US$500 million a day in oil revenues.
As Chair of OIC, Malaysia should play its role to ensure that OIC and in particular the oil-rich member countries play a commensurate role in the post-tsunami rescue, recovery and reconstruction efforts, with their governments pledging US$1-2 billion reflecting their oil wealth.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman