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Tsunami relief? No, thanks.

Peter Ford, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, has an interesting article on the politics of foreign aid in response to the tsunami. He focuses on the question, “Why would a nation refuse foreign aid?”, as India, Thailand and Burma have.

The answers make some sense for India and Thailand. (The article doesn’t mention Burma.) While India was heavily impacted by the tsunami, the Indian government is reasonably flush with cash and feels able to finance its own disaster relief efforts. Rather than asking for aid, India is providing significant aid, including airlifting supplies, to Sri Lanka. As a result, India, like China, positions itself as a regional power, capable of surviving its own disaster and lending a hand, like the other major world powers.

Thailand, profoundly affected in southern coastal areas, is refusing certain types of aid from France and Germany – it’s refusing offers to forgive some government debt. Why? Thailand is concerned that its credit rating – currently A/BBB+, according to Standard and Poor’s – would be adversely affected by failing to make the payments.

Neither explanation helps us understand why the Myanmar government continues to refuse assistance beyond a token amount from the Chinese government.