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Archive for the ‘Pressroom’ Category

Ezra Klein Cites MFAN Principals’ Report in Washington Post

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
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On his blog earlier today, Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein posted a piece about five ways foreign aid could be improved to cost less and be more effective. After establishing that foreign aid makes up just less than 1 percent of the federal budget, Klein writes, “But even though we’re actually spending less than Americans think we should, the perception that we massively overspend makes it easier for politicians to slash foreign aid whenever they need to make some budget cuts.”

Still, there’s hope. He cites a recent policy brief from MFAN Principals John Norris of the Center for American Progress and Connie Veillette of the Center for Global Development who list off five ways the U.S. government can save money on its foreign assistance programs by eliminating earmarks—or as Klein puts it “aidmarks”—doing away with ag subsidies, and getting rid of outdated shipping regulations. Klein makes the point that these measures, being pro-market and putting every dollar to greater use, seem to be exactly the kind of improvements Republicans could get behind. Read his full piece here.

 

MFAN’s Daily News Clips

Friday, May 13th, 2011
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News Clips 5.13.2011

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Today’s Headline: See our Twitter feed @ModernizeAid for live tweets from yesterday’s overflow event for the newly-formed Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance.

Commentary

  • Sen. Lugar Raises Afghan Mission Questions (NPR Morning Edition, May 13) INSKEEP: Of course, since bin Laden was found in Pakistan, given where he was found, people have begun questioning that aid again. Do you regret supporting that bill at all? Mr. LUGAR: No, because the Pakistanis always said: You folks are in and out of the place. You have no interest in us. And we said wrong. We’re going to make a commitment for five years. The five years was the big figure, not the $7.5 billion, although that’s a lot of money. However, life is never simple, and when we began to implement the first year of this, Pakistanis said, well, you’re intruding on our sovereignty. Sometimes they said, well, we need really some big dams. And we said, no, we want to deal with schoolchildren and want to deal with health, the strengthening of civil government. And they said well, that really is intrusion. You are really into our box now. So, as a result, the truth of the matter is out of the 1.5 billion in the first year, only 179 million has actually been allocated to four projects. And even that is under some scrutiny as to how it is being spent, how efficient the funds may be. Now, that’s too bad, but it illustrates how tough this job is, even if you offer a very generous thought in terms of foreign assistance. Getting it done in Pakistan is no easy trick. However, there’s still four more years to come into a new relationship with a very important country of 180 million people.
  • Pakistan and questions over foreign aid (Reuters blog-Bernd Debusmann, May 13) Consequently, military and civilian aid is likely to continue flowing and the strained marriage of convenience between the U.S. and Pakistan will survive this latest spat. But giving billions of dollars to a country where, according to President Barack Obama, “we think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden” will probably rekindle a long-running debate over the how and why of foreign aid as a whole.

News

  • New U.S. Bipartisan Caucus Targets Aid Effectiveness (Devex, May 12) The Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance will examine the “ways the United States currently delivers foreign assistance” to help improve the effectiveness of the country’s aid program and educate members of the U.S. Congress on the the subject, Reps. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.), founders and co-chairmen of the caucus, said in a letter they circulated this week inviting colleagues to the launch. Crenshaw and Smith recognized in their letter an argument that the Obama administration has been emphasizing for years: Development aid is in the U.S.’s economic and national security interests. “Development assistance, coupled with defense and diplomacy, makes up the critical balance of America’s national security,” they said, adding that effective foreign aid can help promote accountability, develop stable international partners, reduce poverty, and increase national security, among others.

 

MFAN’s Daily News Clips

Thursday, May 12th, 2011
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News Clips 5.12.2011

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Today’s Headline: We commend Representatives Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) and Adam Smith (D-WA) for launching the Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance.  The Caucus is the first of its kind to focus solely on reforming foreign assistance to maximize the impact of the 1 percent of our federal budget that is spent on promoting poverty alleviation, disease eradication, and equitable economic growth in developing countries. Read more of MFAN’s statement on the Caucus launch here.

Commentary

  • Libyan rebels get first tranche of U.S. aid: 10,000 MREs (FP Blog-Josh Rogin, May 11) The meals are part of the $25 million in non-lethal aid to the Libyan rebels the White House approved on April 26. That approval came 11 days after the State Department notified Congress that it wanted to spend the funds to help the Libyan rebel army fight off the forces of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. “One of the reasons why I announced $25 million in non-lethal aid yesterday, why many of our partners both in NATO and in the broader Contact Group are providing assistance to the opposition, is to enable them to defend themselves and to repulse the attacks by Qaddafi forces,” Clinton said April 21.

News

  • Obama, Congress ratchet up deficit-reduction talks (Reuters, May 12) Republicans’ are seeking long-term reforms to save money in retirement and healthcare programs for the poor and elderly, achieving more immediate cuts in programs ranging from education to foreign aid, while increasing defense spending. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, testifying to Congress, warned it was “a risky approach to not raise the debt limit in a reasonable time.” A failure by lawmakers to send a debt limit increase to Obama promptly, Bernanke added, would at the minimum result in higher interest rates and at worst “have extremely dire consequences for the U.S. economy.”
  • Republicans say aid efforts in Haiti are a failure (AP, May 11) “The initial response was tremendous,” Shah said. “We would have had more success with rubble removal and housing if we had more specific support from our partners and the government of Haiti. We’re not in charge of Haiti. We’re in a bilateral partnership with Government of Haiti.” “You would be fired” if the recovery efforts showed the same results in the United States, said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., said USAID has suffered from budget cuts. But he added: “There is a responsibility to show this committee improvements are being made. I don’t think the patience is going to last forever.” Chaffetz, who chaired the subcommittee hearing, said USAID’s record wasn’t much better in Iraq and Afghanistan. He pointed to a memorandum to Shah from the agency inspector general that concluded wildly inaccurate claims were made about operations in Iraq.

Community

  • The U.S. Should Maintain Aid to Pakistan, Especially in Education (Brookings blog-Rebecca Wintrhop and Anda Adams, May 12) Since 2001, the majority of U.S. assistance to Pakistan – more than $20 billion – has gone to Pakistan’s military. Recognizing this imbalance in support, the 2009 legislation introduced by Senators Kerry and Lugar sought to “promote an enhanced strategic partnership with Pakistan and its people” by authorizing $7.5 billion over 5 years in non-military aid for democratic governance, economic freedom, investments in people, particularly women and children, and development in regions affected by conflict and displacement. In addition to being an overt attempt to win “hearts and minds” by focusing on Pakistan’s civilians, the bill also signaled a shift to a more stable allocation of aid to a country that has experienced extreme volatility in U.S. aid levels over the past fifty years as geopolitical interests have shifted.

 

MFAN’s Daily News Clips

Thursday, May 12th, 2011
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News Clips 5.11.2011

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Today’s Headline: Tomorrow, Reps. Crenshaw and Smith will launch the newly-formed Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance at an event featuring USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and a panel of other leading development community voices. For more information, click here.

Commentary

  • Pakistan military aid safer than the economic aid (FP Blog-Josh Rogin, May 11) As Congress contemplates cutting U.S. aid to Pakistan in light of the discovery that Osama bin Laden had been hiding there for years, the funds most at risk from disgruntled lawmakers are those currently allocated to the civilian government that is more sympathetic to Washington, rather than the money going to the Pakistani military, which is more wary of ties to the United States. Most vulnerable are the funds promised under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid package, which total $7.5 billion over five years. “The part that I’m most skeptical of is the economic part, the 5 year Kerry-Lugar plan,” Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) told The Cable in a Tuesday interview.”It’s not a matter of which part of the government to support, it’s the mission or activities that are in our interest. And the military pieces that we’re supporting, which is reimbursement of their costs for supporting our effort in Afghanistan plus training their military on the border, that’s clearly in our interest,” Levin said.
  • Interview with Sen. Marco Rubio: Leading from the front (The Washington Post-Jennifer Rubin, May 11) I ask him about last week’s Republican debate in which more than half the candidates advocated slashing defense and adopting a more isolationist foreign policy. Is he concerned about the direction of the party? He says bluntly, “That’s the wrong direction for America. There has never been a time when we could waste money on defense or foreign aid. We need to make sure the money is wisely spent. . . . On the other hand, to withdraw or retreat from the world will create a vacuum that will be filled by actors” not nearly as desirable or capable as the United States. He says isolationism and defense-cutting are shortsighted. “Disengaging from the world will end up costing us more,” he says. He is concerned that “21st-century American conservatism does not become the politics of neo-isolationism, of retreat. In the last century the U.S. has been a force for good. If you talk to people around the world, they’ll tell you the same thing.”

News

  • GOP sets stage for major cuts in 2012 (Politico, May 11) Among the dozen annual spending bills, only the Pentagon’s would grow—a $17 billion increase that brings the total to $530 billion, just $8.9 billion less than the president’s 2012 request. By comparison, the much smaller State Department and foreign aid budget is cut by $11.2 billion, a 22 percent reduction from the administration’s request. Floor debate on the three toughest bills with the most serious cuts— foreign aid, labor, education, health, and transportation and housing—would all be delayed until after Labor Day. And clearly the chairman is hoping for some August settlement on the budget caps tied to lifting the federal debt ceiling. These 2012 totals also don’t include $127 billion in war-related funding for Afghanistan and Iraq as well as world-wide anti-terrorism efforts. The bulk of that money, $119 billion, would go again to the Pentagon, but the $7.6 billion is allocated to the State Department and foreign aid and $258 million for Homeland Security. The State Department funds reflect a significant shift from last year and should slow the hemorrhaging and help stabilize aid levels, especially for frontline states like Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Community

  • Deep and Disproportionate Cuts to the International Affairs Budget: Dangerous to Our National Security (Will and the Wallet blog-Liz Schrayer, May 11) America must be competitive in the global economy and the tools in the International Affairs Budget help strengthen and open new markets for American goods and services.  Today, nearly half of U.S.exports go to the developing world, a figure that has steadily grown over the past decade, and one in five American jobs is now dependent on trade and exports. Clearly we must address the deficit, and we welcome the debate in Washington.  But it is critical that this 1% of our budget, programs that are vital to our national and economic security, do not absorb disproportionate and deep cuts along the way to solving a much larger fiscal problem.

MFAN’s Daily News Clips

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
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News Clips 5.10.2011

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Today’s Headline: Margaret C. Sullivan will join USAID as Chief of Staff and a principal advisor to Administrator Raj Shah. As Chief of Staff, Sullivan will report directly to the administrator, facilitate and coordinate overall Agency operations, and serve as a key advisor on advancing USAID’s agenda, goals and critical initiatives.  She has a long history of federal service including working as the West Coast Representative and as a Chief of Staff to Secretary Andrew Cuomo at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Chief of Staff to the United States Trade Representative in the Executive Office of the President. Ben Hubbard, the acting Chief of Staff, will transition to lead the Development Credit Authority.

Commentary

  • Should the U.S. Cut Off Aid to Pakistan? (The New York Times-Room for Debate, May 10) Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week that Pakistani authorities “were involved or incompetent.” The Obama administration has sought $3 billion in aid for Pakistan for 2012, but some lawmakers are questioning the value of that investment. Has aid to Pakistan in the past decade — totaling more than $20 billion — helped or hurt American security interests? Should aid be cut off now?

News

  • Pakistan should heed US concerns: key senator (AFP, May 10) But in a sign of how little leverage that could provide, a key author of a major foreign assistance bill for Pakistan complained that very little of that money had been spent. “We’ve spent only $179 million out of the $1.5 billion,” said Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who cited “lack of confidence and anybody administering (the aid) or even disagreement on what we should be spending it for.” A February 2011 US Government Accountability Office report found that, as of December 31, 2010, just $179.5 million out of the roughly $1.5 billion in annual aid had been spent on seven programs.
  • In New Challenge, Bill Gates to Show Small Farmers’ Role in Poverty, Hunger Reduction (Devex, May 10) “On May 24, I’ll be giving a speech in Washington, D.C. to draw attention to farming families in the developing world and the important role they play in cutting hunger and poverty,” Bill Gates said in a blog post launching the “Small Farmers Are The Answer” challenge. “I need your help in making the case about why small farmers are so important – in fact, I want you to share your best ideas and help spread the word.” Gates is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at a symposium on global agriculture and food security hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The event will also feature U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack.
  • Foreign aid gets half a billion boost in Australia (Sydney Morning Herald, May 10) The federal government has boosted foreign aid by almost half a billion dollars, winning plaudits from charities. Resisting calls to cut foreign aid spending to help push the budget back into surplus, the government will in fact increase it by $474 million, to $4.84 billion in 2011/12. The boost means aid will now account for 0.35 per cent of gross national income (GNI). But Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says the government remains committed to boosting aid spending to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015/16.

Community

  • How Four I-NGOs Promote Local Ownership of their Aid Programs (UN Dispatch-Mark Leon Goldberg, May 10) It has become de rigeur for the major international development and health NGOS to incorporate capacity building and promote local ownership of aid programs.  This makes sense in terms of long term sustainability of programs and it is also something that major donors are increasingly demanding. In the new issue of PSI’s Impact magazine (for which I am a contributing writer), I take a look at how four I-NGO’s — World Vision, International Planed Parenthood Federation, Family Health International, and PSI — approach this question of local ownership of aid programs.