On April 10, President Barack Obama urged Congress to approve his proposal, which would increase foreign aid spending for the 2014 budget. He requested an additional $52 billion, which would alleviate the current year’s slashed budget, since Congress reduced the foreign aid budget for 2013 after the partisan impasse – or after Congress could not decide how to reduce the federal deficit. Obama’s proposal would also increase the worldwide assistance given in global health as well as developmental assistance to struggling countries. In addition, the president combines his proposal with a plan to reduce military aid to certain foreign countries for “front-line states” like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Obama also wants to increase foreign aid in terms of the USAID food program; rather, he wishes to create a reform that would save money in shipping, but would also urge investment in developing countries, in particular in their food production and food security. This is a controversial measure, since it may lead to less revenue for the U.S., but would prove to be greatly beneficial to the country in the long-term.
This relatively modest request to increase foreign aid by $52 billion is part of a budget of $3.8 trillion. Still, many NGOs, or non-governmental organizations, are incredibly happy at the idea of this new budget, although the approval remains open-ended. In particular, development and humanitarian NGOs strongly support this initiative. The ball is now in Congress’s court whether or not to increase foreign aid, but President Obama has made his stance clear on the matter.
Samuel Worthington, who is the president of a coalition of about 200 NGOs called InterAction, commented that President Obama has shown his commitment to development and poverty-reduction worldwide. He also mentioned that the U.S. needs to reflect on its moral leadership in the world by giving aid to the impoverished and vulnerable. Other NGO leaders, with Worthington, have asked Congress to change their position on foreign aid, since Congress has already lowered the foreign aid budget in the past year, much to the chagrin of the administration (who requested a higher budget for international affairs).
Adam Taylor, who is the vice president of the major relief group World Vision, said that supporting cost-effective, life-saving interventions are necessary, and should be supported across the board. These things include health, food, and emergency relief.
As of now, the foreign aid budget hardly counts for one percent of the total budget for the entire year, and this includes funding for USAID, the State Department, and contributions to the United Nations. The defense budget, on the other hand, is $527 billion, which is more than the next 20 largest military budgets in the world combined. A further $88 billion is spent in Afghanistan’s military operations. Clearly, foreign aid takes a backseat in the U.S.; however, President Obama wants to change that in the upcoming years.
Overall, the U.S. has a low foreign aid budget that President Obama would like to increase, not only to help citizens in other countries have a higher quality of life, but in order to help the U.S. in the long-run. Helping other countries opens new markets and it also makes other countries indebted to the giver of aid. Finally, it holds up a moral code that the U.S. should follow to inspire other countries as well as future generations.
– Corina Balsamo
Sources: Arab American News, U News Online, The Jakarta Globe
Photo: Rolling Out