POTOMAC, Maryland — With the passage of Congress’ massive stimulus bill comes a number of new initiatives not only aimed at helping Americans at home but also innumerable peoples suffering abroad as well. Of course, the nearly 5600-page legislation contains a large number of these initiatives, but it cannot be denied that certain recipients were bound to receive the greatest share of aid. Here are the top six recipients receiving more than $100 million, along with the initiatives that will be funded as a result.
#6: Egypt ($125 million)
Having been a recipient of U.S. foreign aid since 1979, Egypt continues to be a key investment for the West, especially given its meteoric economic rise in the mid-2000s. However, political instability in the early 2010s has trickled down to Egyptian society at large, with wealth inequality and limited opportunity being key challenges.
Like previous aid programs, this investment by the U.S. seeks to curtail these trends and encourage economic development. Additionally, $40 million is set aside for educational endeavors in order to broaden opportunities for up-and-coming Egyptians, with $15 million of the funding designated for scholarship opportunities for youths.
#5: Myanmar/Thailand ($135 million)
The Rohingya people in Myanmar are currently facing systemic persecution, and the resulting human rights crisis has been a frequent topic of discussion at the U.N. Congress. To address these humanitarian issues in Myanmar, this stimulus bill has set aside a sum to support the plight of the Rohingya people.
Furthermore, as most of the Rohingya people see little alternative but to flee Myanmar, a clause is included in the legislation which allows these funds to be shared with humanitarian organizations based in Thailand. These funds aim to support Rohingya refugees who already fled Myanmar and are now seen as stateless and lacking proper support.
#4: Women Empowerment ($200+ million)
In a major milestone for global gender equality, funds in Congress’ latest stimulus bill have been allocated to safeguard women from extremism and violence to gender barriers around the world. Furthermore, the initiative designates a separate portion to propel women to leadership roles globally, in both public and private sectors.
The act also outlines the various types of discrimination and abuse that the initiatives seek to counteract, including everything from employment discrimination to sex trafficking, as well as using broad language to combat women’s abuse both in “conflict and non-conflict settings.”
#3: The Democratic Republic of the Congo ($325 million)
The DRC is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, with 73% of the population living in poverty. It has become a hotspot for violence, instability and diseases such as Ebola, Measles and now COVID-19. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of refugees on the move in this region of continental Africa.
With such a grave threat to international security posed by the innumerable forces at play in the region, the Congress’ stimulus bill seeks to build on the work of the U.N., which has maintained its most expensive peacekeeping mission in the DRC for more than 20 years, by providing essential aid. The bill explains how this aid hopes to bring some degree of stability to the region as well as contain the spread of diseases.
#2: Sudan ($700 million)
Sudan is a country on the brink of transformation. Despite having had the most economic sanctions from the U.S., which were lifted under the Obama and Trump presidencies, the economy continued to soar, stirring a revolution in 2019. This revolution led to the present joint military-civilian transitional government overseeing Sudan’s transition into a democratic state.
Despite the continuing shortages of food, fuel and currency, the economic potential of a democratic Sudan is closely observed by larger countries and investors in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Moreover, the U.S. too appears to invest in democratic Sudan, with its $700 million investment set to remain available well into 2022 for various health, growth and other assistance measures.
#1: Jordan ($1.65 billion)
Standing to gain almost 23% of all foreign aid in the stimulus, Jordan is generally regarded as an anomaly in the Middle East in that it is consistently ranked one of the freest countries in the region. Jordan is a constitutional monarchy with a prime minister, two chambers of Congress and recently implemented proportional representation. However, King Abdullah II still wields a considerable say in national policy.
However, economically, Jordan’s efforts to grow its economy had little success. A series of austerity measures backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which were implemented in 2016 and 2018, sought to alleviate public debt by raising taxes. These measures were met with a negative public reception and caused overall tax revenues in the country to decline.
The aid that is being set aside for Jordan, while described with vague specifications, is largely left to its government to spend where it sees fit. This liberty is likely based on a fair amount of trust, built upon prior U.S. support and foreign relation.
Continuing the Support
In total, foreign aid spending has amounted to approximately $7.2 billion out of the $900 billion to be spent under the stimulus bill. This accounts for less than 0.01% of the total stimulus. President Donald Trump signed the stimulus bill into law on December 27, 2020, despite initially appearing prepared to veto the bill. Talks in Congress on further spending measures continue.