Bush and Foreign Aid

Courtesy Reuters


One of the greatest surprises of George W. Bush's presidency so far has been his call to dramatically increase U.S. foreign aid. In March 2002, Bush proposed an increase of 50 percent over the next three years through the creation of a Millennium Challenge Account (mca), a fund that would provide $5 billion per year to a select group of countries that are "ruling justly, investing in their people, and establishing economic freedom." That September, Bush released his National Security Strategy, which gave rare prominence to development and aid alongside defense and diplomacy. Then came his 2003 State of the Union address, in which he called for $10 billion in new funding ($15 billion total) over the next five years to combat hiv/aids in Africa and the Caribbean. This proposal was rapidly signed into law in late May, on the eve of the G-8 summit. And Bush's 2004 budget included two smaller initiatives: a $200 million famine fund and a $100 million fund for "complex emergencies." If these programs are funded as proposed, they will increase U.S. foreign aid from approximately $11 billion in 2002 to $18 billion in 2006 -- the largest increase in decades. Perhaps more important, they will also fundamentally change the way the United States delivers aid by making recipients more involved in setting priorities and by demanding greater accountability for results.

All of these initiatives were quite unexpected from a conservative Republican president whose party has shown a long-standing antagonism toward foreign aid. Why, then, has Bush pushed for the new spending? Part of the answer is simple political expediency: he needed compelling announcements to make at the development summit in Monterrey, Mexico (hence the MCA), and in his State of the Union address (hence the HIV/AIDS proposal). To some extent, the programs are also part of the administration's response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Yet, surprisingly, neither of the major initiatives is aimed at failed states that breed terrorism or at frontline states such as Turkey or Pakistan. The aim

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