There is good and bad to the news that Britain surpassed the United States for the first time ever in donations to the World Bank’s unit to combat world poverty. This should help dispel the notion that the bank’s International Development Association is an arm of the United States Treasury. The more depressing side to the news is that the US — with an economy five times the size of Britain’s — is doing far less than it could and should to help the world’s poorest countries.

The US can partly blame the disparity on the declining value of the dollar versus the pound. But the fact remains that, no matter what Americans may think, the US has long lagged behind other donors when it comes to doling out foreign assistance. While the US increased official foreign assistance, it is still paltry: about 0.2 percent of the economy — and some 50 percent less, proportionally, than Britain’s and less than one-fourth the level of Sweden’s and Norway’s.

The latest World Bank pledges are good news for poor countries. They show that developed nations are aware that they need to do more to assist those left behind by globalisation. But they are also a reminder that the United States needs to be doing a lot more. And it

is the best way to help poor countries develop and avoid becoming failed states

or breeding grounds for terrorism. — The New York Times