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President Bush Heads to Scotland for G-8 Summit

President Bush
President Bush heads to Scotland this week for the annual Group of Eight Summit. Summit host, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, wants this year's meeting of the leaders of the world's richest industrialized democracies and Russia to focus on aid to Africa and climate change. While there is agreement on the goals, there are trans-Atlantic differences on approach.

Prime Minister Blair is pushing this G-8 summit to approve a massive package designed to ease poverty in Africa. It includes debt relief and a doubling of assistance to the continent through a new funding mechanism that would enable Africans to get money now, based on promises of aid in the future.

President Bush has signed off on the debt relief proposal. But he is coming to the meeting in Scotland determined to follow his own aid strategy.

The president has made clear there must be a link between development assistance and reform. He says donors and recipient governments must work together to provide a better future.

"New resources are not enough. We need new thinking by all nations. Our greatest challenge is to get beyond empty symbolism and discredited policies, and match our good intentions with good results," Mr. Bush says.

In the weeks leading up to the summit, Mr. Bush announced new initiatives to fight malaria, improve educational opportunities, and send emergency famine aid to those most in need. But he made clear an answer to Africa's major development problems does not necessarily lie in a quick, huge infusion of assistance.

Professor Adam Lerrick, of Carneige Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is an expert on the economics of foreign aid. He says, without reform, there can be no long-term progress.

"The greatest, I think, advice I could give to the G-8 leaders is to be firm that, yes, they are committed to helping the poor in Africa and other countries - there are other parts of the world that are just as poor, but it has to be done in what is going to be, in the long run, an effective manner," Mr. Lerrick says. "Because, if you just throw more money at it, and it does not work, people are going to lose interest. And that would be a tragedy. The spotlight will move on."

For now, public pressure on the G-8 to take action is strong and very visible.

More than a million people on four continents are estimated to have listened to rock and pop music Saturday at 10 concerts, held in each of the G-8 countries and South Africa to raise awareness of world poverty. A similar event will be held on Wednesday in Scotland, as the G-8 leaders begin to gather at the Gleneagles golf resort.

Irish rock-star Bono, lead singer of the band U-2, has been one of the biggest advocates in the music world for the poor. During a recent appearance on the NBC television program, Meet the Press, he said he is convinced President Bush wants to help Africa, and urged him to agree to the Blair plan.

"The rest of Europe is about to double aid, and that will leave America as one-eighth of the aid going to Africa, if they do not match that, and that is not a place Americans want to be," Mr. Bono says. "That would be Europe doing four times as much as America."

The Bush administration counters that there is too much attention on the total amount of aid, and not enough on just how it is spent.

"Well, I think, once again, Bono and the other very well-intentioned people have never actually run aid programs and seen what happens," Mr. Natsios says.

Andrew Natsios heads the U.S. Agency for International Development. He told CNN's Late Edition program that, when too much aid is put too quickly into countries with weak institutions and limited capacity, the result is corruption and failure.

"What we now have to do is focus attention, not just on how much we are giving, but what we are doing with the money," Mr. Natsios says. "You have to do both those things. And none of the discussion at the concerts, or the G-8, is on the quality side (issue)."

Mr. Natsios said President Bush made a decision to dramatically increase aid to Africa early in his first term in office, long before concerts or the G-8 summit in Scotland. An effort to fight AIDS is one major initiative already in place, along with a program that provides grants to countries that implement political and economic reforms.