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<><> Nobel laureate Sir Angus Deaton argues that foreign aid (from wealthy countries like the US) gives a lifeline to corrupt governments, insulating them from the political pressures that would create a better functioning state.
<><> Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo writes that more than $1 trillion in aid has flowed to Africa in past decades, but real per capital income on the continent has not improved since the 1970s.
<><> The ten-largest recipients of US economic and development aid are in Africa, including Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. Regionally, Africa receives 32 percent of all U.S. aid, followed by the Middle East at 31 percent and South and Central Asia at 25 percent.
How Does the U.S. Spend Its Foreign Aid? / Backgrounder by James McBride / April 11, 2017
EXCERPT-Though aid remains a small percentage of the overall U.S. budget, some politicians and economists have criticized the spending as ineffective. Others have urged the United States to expand its international aid commitments.
What is foreign aid?
The current foreign aid system was created by the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, which attempted to streamline the governments efforts to provide assistance around the world. The statute defines aid as the unilateral transfers of U.S. resources by the U.S. Government to or for the benefit of foreign entities. These resources include not just goods and funding, but also technical assistance, educational programming, and other services. Recipients include foreign governments, including foreign militarys and security forces, as well as local businesses and charitable groups, international organizations such as the United Nations, and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
How much does the United States spend on it?
Given the many agencies, funding methods, and categories of aid associated with U.S. foreign assistance efforts, estimates can differ. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), which uses the broadest definition of aid [PDF], including military and security assistance, total spending was nearly $49 billion in 2015. This accounts for roughly 1.3 percent of the federal budget.
Aid funding levels are at their highest since the period immediately following World War II, when the United States invested heavily in rebuilding European economies. In the 1990s, in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, aid levels were cut to barely half of what they are today, falling to less than $20 billion in 1997, or 0.8 percent of the overall budget. Aid rose again in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, surpassing 1.4 percent of the budget by 2007, which analysts say was driven largely by assistance to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as President George W. Bushs global health programs.
What are its objectives?
As former State Department official and aid expert Carol Lancaster pointed out in her book, Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, Domestic Politics, modern U.S. aid originated in Cold War geopolitics: the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe was designed to blunt the influence of rising Communist political forces on the continent. National security concerns have continued to drive U.S. assistance policy, aiming to provide stability in conflicted regions, bolster allies, promote democracy, or contribute to counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts abroad.
How is the money spent?
U.S. aid policy seeks to achieve its aims through a diverse array of programs, which can be organized into several major categories. According to CRS calculations, foreign aid spending in 2015 broke down as follows:
Long-term development aid (38 percent) provides ongoing funding for projects to promote broad-based economic growth and general prosperity in the worlds poorest countries. More than half of this goes to bilateral global health programs, including treatment of HIV/AIDS, maternal and family health, and support for government health-care systems, mostly in Africa. About 15 percent of this goes to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the UN Development Program.
Military and security aid (35 percent) primarily goes toward helping allies purchase U.S. military equipment, training foreign military personnel, and funding peacekeeping missions. A smaller slice goes to non-military security assistance, which includes counter-narcotics programs in Afghanistan, Colombia, Peru, and elsewhere, as well as nonproliferation and counterterrorism efforts.
Humanitarian aid (16 percent) is spent to alleviate short-term humanitarian crises, such as those resulting from famine, earthquakes, war, failed states, or other natural or man-made disasters. This includes State Department and Defense Department disaster relief efforts, as well as purchases of U.S. agricultural goods and funding for organizations such as the International Red Cross and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Political aid (11 percent) is intended to support political stability, free market economic reforms, and democratic institutions. Programs include governance and justice system reforms, backing for human rights organizations, and support for peace talks and treaty implementation.
Which agencies manage it?
U.S. foreign assistance is managed by a complex ecosystem of agencies, with over twenty federal agencies involved in either funding or implementing foreign aid policy.
The 1961 Foreign Assistance Act created the U.S. governments primary aid organization, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The agency administers the bulk of U.S. development and humanitarian aid, managing [PDF] over $20 billion in funds and employing more than nine thousand staff around the world.
USAID is a semi-independent agency, operating under the policy guidance of the president, the State Department, and the National Security Council. It receives its funding through the State Department budget. In 2006, in an attempt to streamline what some policymakers considered a dysfunctional aid system, the Bush administration created a new role, the Director of Foreign Assistance, in the State Department with a mandate to coordinate all U.S. aid activity.
The Department of Defense plays a major role as the agency primarily responsible for implementing traditional military aid, though the State Department also funds and influences many security assistance programs. The Department of Health and Human Services implements many health-related programs, including the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The Treasury Department helps manage funding of global financial institutions, as well as programs for debt relief and economic reforms in poor countries. There are also a plethora of other agencies and autonomous organizations, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Peace Corps, and the African Development Foundation, involved in aid work.
Which countries receive the most aid?
More than two hundred countries receive U.S. aid. It disproportionately goes to a few, however, with the top five receiving [PDF] over $1 billion per year as of 2015: Afghanistan ($5.5 billion), Israel ($3.1 billion), Iraq ($1.8 billion), Egypt ($1.5 billion), and Jordan ($1.1 billion).
As a Washington Post analysis points out, this is largely due to the concentration of military aid in a few countries: Afghanistan receives $3.7 billion in security aid, all of Israels $3.1 billion is military aid, and the vast majority of aid to both Egypt and Iraq is security-related.
More than two hundred countries receive U.S. aid. Aid disproportionately goes to a few, however.