Haiyan survivors have gotten more aid from Ikea than China. PHOTO: Reuters
Super typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, particularly the city of Tacloban, and aid money is pouring in from governments, charitable organizations and individual donations. Some organizations, like Swedish furniture giant Ikea, have been very generous, and one major government, China, has been maddeningly stingy. That’s how we end up with Ikea having given more money to Haiyan relief in the Philippines than China, the world’s second largest economy.
The figures: Ikea has offered $2.7 million through its charitable foundation. China has given $1.84 million in money and materials, mostly $1.64 million in tents. Those tents will save lives, but given China’s wealth, it’s an embarrassment to be eclipsed by Ikea. For comparison, the U.S. gave $20 million and has deployed troops out of Okinawa and is sending an aircraft carrier. Japan, similarly, offered $10 million and the use of troops, ships and planes. Australia provided $28 million.
These gifts are pocket change to enormous economies like the U.S. and Japan. Even from a purely cynical point of view, they benefit the giving countries by generating good will in the Philippines and the surrounding area. China’s stinginess comes off as needless Scrooge behavior from a country that is physically closer to the Philippines than any major power. Whether or not China can afford to give more aid money to Haiyan relief is a non-issue (they absolutely can). They have simply decided that it is not a worthwhile use of their money. China would do well to look to other major powers or, for that matter, Ikea, for inspiration.