04/08/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Rich Countries' Foreign Aid Generosity

In his 2010 annual letter on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft-founder BIll Gates outlined the challenges facing foreign aid in the current economic climate: "Because of budget deficits, there is significant risk that aid budgets will either be cut or not increase much," he wrote last month.

A passionate advocate for the impact that foreign aid can have, Gates argues that the public often don't realize how effective it is because they don't hear about its achievements. "Some formed their image of foreign aid during the Cold War, when money was sent to buy the allegiance of a dictator with very little control to make sure it was well spent. We need to get the successes to be far more visible than they are today," Gates wrote.

For Gates, the best measure of a country's generosity is to measure its foreign aid as a percentage of GDP. Based on this metric, Sweden, Norway and Denmark are the most generous, while the U.S., among the wealthy countries mentioned, is the least. However, the U.S. does, due to the size of its economy, give the most amount of money of any country, just not as a percentage of GDP. The U.N. target, which both Sweden and Norway exceed, is 0.7 percent of GDP as foreign aid; the U.S. currently gives 0.19 percent.

Gates singled out Italy for particular condemnation in his annual letter, saying he personally made the case for the country to give more to Silvio Berlusconi last June, but was ultimately unsuccessful. In an interview last month Gates, somewhat uncharacteristically, lashed out at the Italian premier, suggesting that he had put his own personal vanity before giving.

Below is a slideshow highlighting the foreign aid data Gates focused on. The data, taken from the OECD, shows a country's net aid as a percentage of GDP in 2008. Take a look and vote on which countries deserve praise for their generosity and which need to do more.

World Aid
World Aid