Tun Ismail Ali - A Malaysian Legend

26 July 1998

A deadbeat (ded bi:t/adjective and noun) according to the Oxford Concise dictionary is an American slang for a person who is constantly in debt.

Nations, like individuals, have a face to guard and as a friend of the United States, I feel Washington should not have the reputation of being a tardy deadbeat.

The pejorative word "deadbeat" has of late, so often infuriated Congressional critics of the United Nations (a group of people sensitive to the core) who do not like (no matter how justified) the United States to be criticised by anybody, especially by the third world.

It is quite simple really. If they are thin-skinned they should work hard to make their nation pay its mega debts of US$1.5 billion (RM6.15 billion) to the United Nations as soon as possible.

By their own (American) definition, individuals or nations which run up mega debts that they consistently fail to settle are regarded routinely as deadbeats. No double standard, please. If Uncle Sam refuses to pay his debts then he is a delinquent! Quite simple.

Be forewarned: the mighty moral setter, United States, could lose its vote in the 185-member United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unless it comes up with at least US$211 million (RM865.1 million) to US$244 million (RM1.4 billion) more it expects to pay the United Nations as dues and assessments this year before the year ends, according to a new United States government estimate, and officials at the UN Secretariat.

The warning appears in a new study by the General Accounting Office (GAO) on the United Nations' financial problems and arrears owed by Washington. The study was ironically requested by members of Congress some of whom have repeatedly expressed skepticism about how much their nation owes the United Nations.

The study and analysis indicates that " ... the United States could be sufficiently in arrears to lose its General Assembly vote in January 1999 if it (Congress) does not legislate or pay an additional amount between US$211 million and US$244 million by Dec 31, 1998".

The Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, Joseph Connor, an American citizen and chief of the United Nations Department and Management, said in late June: "I wish them (Washington) good luck" adding "since the money is being held back for political reasons, the United States has first to legislate the payment of its dues and after Congressional approval, make sure the cheque reaches the United Nations Secretariat by the end of the year."

"This would be a stunning embarrassment for the United States and would lead to further pressures to reduce our influence in the Security Council, and all other fora," said Princeton Lyman, Assistant Secretary of States for International Organization Affairs in a letter to the GAO.

In any event, I was told, the Congressional study gratified,United Nations officials for what the study says. "It is "important in that sense," said an official. The study now recognizes that the financial problems at the United Nations were created by the United States and other nations which were late in paying their dues".

The American monies meant for the United Nations are being unreasonably held up by right-wing conservative Republican members of Congress who want (mainly for domestic politics) to drastically reduce spending and slash its staff by 50 %. Says the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms of Georgia, an ultra conservative, " ... funding the United Nations is like pouring money into a rat-hole".