In his recent testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah delineated many of the goals and strategic economic and security benefits that highlight the importance of US foreign aid. In his remarks, Shah underlined the reasons that foreign aid represents an investment that generates returns for the United States as well as listing some of USAID’s achievements and proposing reforms that would make aid more cost efficient.
Foreign aid represents only 1% of the federal budget, but its benefits can extremely significant. By helping the poor in other countries, new markets can be created and expanded for US companies. In addition, improving the economic and health conditions in other countries makes the world inherently more stable and promotes American security priorities. Assistance to populations affected by conflict or natural disasters can generate international goodwill and create soft power and influence.
Shah’s remarks focused on outlining the priorities for USAID’s requested 2014 budget. These include programs to foster economic development and democracy in places such as the Middle East and North Africa and efforts to economic opportunities and decrease inequality in Latin America.
Some past achievements of USAID were also delineated to indicate the value of aid expenditures. For example, the Feed the Future program has impacted 1.6 million children in Rwanda, reducing anemia and combating malnutrition. Techniques that allowed 400,000 farmers in Bangladesh to increase their yields by 15% have now been applied by some 7 million farmers all over the world.
In addition, through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, more than 70 companies have committed $3.75 billion to help lift people in Sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty. Furthermore, as a part of this initiative, African governments have committed to market-oriented reforms, such as the removal of export bans on commodities in Tanzania, the elimination of permit requirements for inter-district trade in Mozambique and the eradication of export quotas on processed goods in Ethiopia.
The proposed 2014 budget is lower than that provided in 2012 to reflect the difficult funding environment in Washington. Particular focus is provided toward the implementation of reforms that will make USAID programs more efficient and allow greater impact to be achieved with less money. For example, reforming the current food aid systems would allow 2-4 million more people per year to receive assistance with the same amount of resources.
Rajiv Shah’s testimony provides an important overview of the importance of US foreign aid and how it can be beneficial to US interests. Foreign aid not only helps some of the world’s poorest populations; it also promotes US economic and security interests and is therefore not an expenditure but a valuable investment that pays dividends.
– Caroline Poterio Martinez
Source: US Senate
Photo: The London Evening Post