President Obama announced $3 billion in new private sector investments in agriculture in three African countries at a packed event in Washington, D.C., last Friday. The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is the cornerstone of the United States' 2012 G-8 commitments to development led by USAID and administrator Rajiv Shah. There's a lot to like about the partnership: presidential leadership, a link between public and private investment, and a focus on policy change. But all eyes are on how the relatively modest investments will be implemented and whether they can reach the ambitious poverty reduction targets.
CGD Policy Blogs
There’s much excitement in the Twitterverse today that Africa has the same surface area as the moon. According to Wikipedia and NASA, Africa’s landmass is 11.7 million square miles, compared to the moon’s 14.7 million square mile surface area. But take out the seas on the moon and you probably do get to around the same landmass.
The January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, killed over 220,000 people, displaced several million, and flattened much of the capital, Port Au Prince, also unleashed a tsunami of outside assistance. In the 28 months since the earthquake official donors have disbursed almost $6 billion in aid to help the people of Haiti, the equivalent of $600 per person for a country where per capita annual income is just $670. Where has all the money gone? On the second anniversary of the quake we set out to answer this question; our new CGD policy paper is the result. The short answer is that the vast majority of the money so-far disbursed has been paid to international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private contractors. And while many of these organizations do excellent work, there is shockingly little information on how they used the funds.
I came to CGD nearly to two years ago to lead the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance program, and now it’s time to move on to other pursuits. But not to worry, Rethink will be in good hands.
I have been honored to work with such a fine group of people who are doing important research on difficult issues. During just ten years in existence, CGD has had major impacts on how the United States engages with the rest of the world on global development issues. I look forward to watching its next decade of work.
Two things struck me at a fascinating panel discussion on the political crisis in the Sahel, hosted yesterday at the Heritage Foundation:
Yesterday the House Appropriations Committee released a draft bill that sets spending for international affairs (that’s both diplomacy and development) at levels 14 percent below the request and 5 percent below last year’s appropriations bill. Today, the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee approved those spending levels. Advocates are worried, but they might want to save the hand-wringing for what could be a disastrous end-of-year scramble.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) board of directors has terminated Mali’s compact following the late-March military coup. The five-year, $460 million compact will end at least one month earlier than expected. Portions of the Bamako airport and Alatona irrigation projects won’t be finished. And barring a major turn of events, the investments won’t yield the anticipated returns: two million beneficiaries and an estimated $400 million increase in household income.
This is a joint post with John Norris of the Center for American Progress.
Budget concerns will almost certainly put downward pressure on federal spending across a host of government programs for a number of years. Although some think it is almost heretical to point out the obvious, the international affairs budget will not be immune from this dynamic. In fact, international spending could take a disproportionate hit compared to domestic spending – despite the fact that discretionary international spending is a very small part of the overall budget puzzle.
International affairs, and more specifically foreign assistance, have rarely been popular budget items among the public or on Capitol Hill – despite consistently comprising only about 1 percent of the total federal budget. Even so, foreign aid and international engagement make good political targets for elected officials out on the stump. It is far easier to demonize foreign aid than to explain how relatively modest programs to improve living standards in the developing world have consistently proven to be in the national interest over the long-term.