You're a senior in high school. A number of colleges--all equally ranked by you--have offered you financial aid packages. Some offer $20,000, others $30,000, still others $10,000 in total aid. Money matters to you, as you do not come from a rich family. Do you choose the $30,000?
Maybe. As an intelligent senior, you ask a number of questions:
(1) How much of this aid is in the form of loans, and how much in the form of grants?
(2) How much does the school cost?
(3) When will the grant be disbursed?
(4) What is the commitment to continue the aid over the course of your college term?
(5) Must any of the grants be used for specific purchases, perhaps of items you do not need?
The news media does not ask even the most basic questions about foreign aid. A high school senior would do a better job. The news media says: America commits $350 million, or Japan commits $500 million.
It doesn't ask the basic questions, including the following:
(2) Is the money tied to specific purchases?
(3) Is the aid to be given in the form of material or in the form of money? Money is always better for the recipient. Otherwise, I can say I'm giving you $5 million worth of corn--when in fact the market price of the equivalent food in your country is $1 million. Foreign aid can simply be a means to dump local excess goods on foreign populations.
(4) Must I use the money to buy military equipment from the donor (this may sound ridiculous, but much of our foreign aid is in that form!).
(5) Will the money actually be disbursed? Or is it simply a politically convenient statement? (Recall that less than a month ago, the Bush Administration declared that it would not honor fully its earlier foreign aid commitments.)