USAID Chief Defends Foreign Aid Budget for 2013

Posted March 21st, 2012 at 3:50 am (UTC-5)
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The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development says the United States will streamline its assistance to foreign countries as part of efforts to deal with a massive budget deficit.

Speaking Tuesday at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Rajiv Shah said USAID's 2013 budget proposal, which is slightly lower than last year, will reduce or cut 165 programs across the globe.

“We've eliminated health programs in Peru and Mexico, and eliminated food and agriculture programs in Kosovo, Serbia and Ukraine — all to refocus our efforts on those places where we can generate the most significant results.”

Shah said future U.S. foreign aid investments will be more “prioritized, focused and concentrated,” but promised that U.S. aid will still be able to meet global development challenges.

He faced sharp questioning from House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who called on USAID to consider cutting back aid to countries that no longer need support.

“Our foreign aid is not an entitlement program. Countries like Botswana, Chile, Thailand and South Korea have all used U.S. foreign assistance to build their economies and eventually graduate from U.S. foreign assistance. This should be the goal for all countries that receive U.S. assistance.”

Ros-Lehtinen said the organization made “modest progress” on its previous budget in eliminating “unnecessary” programs. But she said its current budget proposal does not appear to do enough to encourage countries to become self-sufficient.

She specifically criticized U.S. foreign aid funding for environmental initiatives, as well as assistance to the Palestinian Authority and Egypt. She said the money would be better spent on “U.S. national security interests” and democracy promotion programs.

The Obama administration requested a $51.6 billion budget for the State Department and USAID for the fiscal year 2013. The proposal is expected to face continued stiff opposition by lawmakers.