What happens in the world is America’s business, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) argued in a major foreign policy speech at Brookings this week in what sounded a lot like a vice-presidential candidate speech (even if we’re not calling it that just yet). Roll over dog-gate! Step aside mommy-gate! There might finally be some serious comments about the U.S.
CGD Policy Blogs
Congress last week released a draft farm bill that includes some promising fixes to the notoriously inefficient U.S. food aid system.
This is a joint post with Nancy Birdsall.
In a recent interview with the Associated Press, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah stated that the United States will be working to significantly decrease the number of development projects it is currently supporting in Pakistan, from the current 140 to 35 by the end of September 2012. In Dr. Shah’s words, “If we [the U.S.] are trying to do 140 different things, we are unlikely to do things at scale in a way that an entire country of 185 million people can see and value and appreciate. We are just far more effective and we deliver much more value to American taxpayers when we concentrate and focus and deliver results.” Shah goes on to clarify that the United States will not be cutting back on the overall amount of assistance it provides: it plans to adhere to the Kerry-Lugar-Berman framework of $7.5 billion over 5 years.
I applaud Administrator Shah’s call for greater focus in the U.S. assistance portfolio and his explicit emphasis on “results.” After all, as my colleague Connie Veillette has pointed out, the Obama Administration’s Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) on global development explicitly called for greater emphasis on “selectivity” and “results” in U.S. development assistance.
Global aid flows fell by nearly 3 percent in 2011 according to a recent announcement from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The drop in development assistance is considered a result of the global recession and fiscal-tightening as governments trim expenditures to balance budgets. Altogether, aid flows fell by $3.4 billion to a total of $133 billion, the first decrease in development assistance since 1997 (disregarding years of exceptional debt relief).
This is a joint post with Casey Dunning.
Representative Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Congressional budget alternative was launched last week to the dismay of the development community. The 99-page Path to Prosperity anticipates a very small role for development and diplomacy in America’s foreign policy. Both areas of the budget take heavy cuts – a near 10 percent reduction from fiscal year 2012.
The Ryan budget is already taking serious heat with its proposals to eliminate Feed the Future and merge USAID development assistance programs with the Millennium Challenge Corporation. But who didn’t see that level of contention coming? What’s really interesting is comparing the Ryan budget against Congressional reaction to recent USAID hearings with Administrator Raj Shah earlier in March. Congressmen on both sides of the aisle asked nuanced questions that demonstrated an understanding of the role of development as a part of robust U.S. foreign engagement. Moreover, Congressional leaders in both chambers were supportive of administrative efforts to reform and enhance our foreign assistance.
“Can you help us PFG this country?” is not yet a common query heard throughout the U.S. government, but CGD had the opportunity to discover why “PFG-ing” a country could be the next phase in the evolution of U.S. development efforts.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) board of directors suspended Malawi’s $350 million compact and approved a $355 million compact with Zambia at its quarterly meeting last Thursday. It also halted compact operations in Mali following news of a military takeover. And there is still no news on the two vacant board seats.
Malawi and Zambia: Parallel Paths, Opposite Outcomes
On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee approved Chairman Ryan’s budget for fiscal year 2013. It includes sizeable decreases for the international affairs budget, but not for defense. It also reduces funding for the Overseas Contingency Operations account that is designed for both civilian and military costs associated with activities in the front-line states of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. The full table of cuts, by budget function, can be found here.
The MCC board meets Thursday. On the agenda: Zambia (new compact), Malawi (whither its compact) and Niger (revised threshold program). Not on the agenda, but worth discussion: Senegal and upcoming impact evaluations. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it would be nice if there were news on the two vacant board seats.
Good News: Zambia & Niger