Bush Unveils Plan to Increase Foreign Aid by $5B, Including Unspecified Boost to Global AIDS Fund
Speaking yesterday at the Inter-American Development Bank, President Bush said he will seek to increase U.S. aid to developing countries by $5 billion over three years and will increase the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria "as the fund gets organized, develops a strategy and shows success," the AP/Boston Globe reports (Ross, AP/Boston Globe, 3/15). The funds, which need congressional approval and would not begin until fiscal year 2004, would be contingent on developing countries meeting certain standards that have yet to be announced (Hillman, Dallas Morning News, 3/15). "To make progress, we must encourage nations and leaders to walk the hard road of political, legal and economic reform so all their people can benefit," Bush said, noting that the United States "will insist on the reforms necessary to make this a fight we can win." He added that when governments "fail to meet the most basic needs of their people, these failed states can become havens for terror." Bush said that he has directed Secretary of State Colin Powell and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to work with other countries to develop "clear, concrete and objective criteria for measuring progress" in upholding human rights and the rule of law, reforming economic policies that "foster enterprise and entrepreneurship," opening trade and investing in public health, education and immunization (Curl, Washington Times, 3/15). Bush also repeated his idea that development banks should give up to half of the money they earmark for developing nations in the form of grants instead of loans. "Many have rallied to the idea of dropping the debt. I say, 'Let's rally to the idea of stopping the debt,'" Bush sid yesterday at the bank meeting (Dallas Morning News, 3/15).
Bush unveiled the "Compact for Global Development" in preparation for next week's U.N.-sponsored International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico. The Bush administration has "been under heavy fire" for allocating a smaller portion of foreign aid, relative to the size of the U.S. economy, than other developed nations, specifically Japan and several northern European nations. The United Nations recommends that developed countries allot 0.7% of their GNP to foreign aid. However, only Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden have reached that benchmark, with the United States contributing only 0.11% of its GNP for FY 2003 (Vandehei/Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 3/14). Bush's proposed $5 billion increase over three years is an approximate 15% annual increase over the United States' current $10 billion annual foreign aid allotment, which is the lowest amount of foreign aid given since World War II. "He had to step forward and assert leadership. It takes him to Monterrey in a much more positive vein. Otherwise he would have gone down there as the target of criticism and attacks from everybody else," C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Institute for International Economics, explained (Bumiller, New York Times, 3/15). World Bank President James Wolfensohn praised Bush's announcement, noting that the European Union has also recently pledged to increase its foreign assistance. However, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) said the plan does not go far enough because the aid does not begin immediately (AP/Boston Globe, 3/15). "Unfortunately, the vague plan unveiled by the president today does nothing until 2004 to help these nations and their peoples," Gephardt said, adding that he "urge[s] the president to accelerate the timetable of his development assistance proposal and to provide real resources immediately" (Gephardt statement, 3/14). The Global AIDS Alliance said that while it is "glad to see the president beginning to place proper emphasis on assisting poverty-stricken countries," the plan presented yesterday will not "lift the burden of old debts from countries struggling with AIDS and other crises" (Global AIDS Alliance release, 3/14). Salih Booker, director of Africa Action, a consortium of African policy groups, added that the plan runs the risk of "suggest[ing] a return to an older, imperial order where rich countries dictate the terms of cooperation with poor countries" (AP/Boston Globe, 3/15).
The President and The 'Pest'
Irish rock star and debt-relief champion Bono was in Washington lobbying the White House and members of Congress to support debt relief and AIDS initiatives in Africa. "I am a pest, I am a stone in the shoe of a lot of people living here in this town," Bono told reporters. In his speech yesterday, Bush praised Bono for "lead[ing] to achieve what his heart tells him, and that is nobody -- nobody -- should be living in poverty and hopelessness in the world" (AP/Spokane Spokesman-Review, 3/15). Bono, who will tour Africa in May with O'Neill, said in a statement, "The emergency of AIDS cannot and will not be addressed with just good intentions. The rich nations, like the United States, must commit real resources to the world's most deadly pandemic. ... We must all work together with the administration and the leaders in Congress to begin addressing the AIDS emergency immediately" (Bono statement, 3/14). Bono noted that Bush had called AIDS in Africa a "genocide" and said he took that statement to mean that "through our inaction, we are complicit." But White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said that Bush was "using [the word] figuratively as a way to describe an immense tragedy" (AP/Spokane Spokesman-Review, 3/15). On Wednesday, Bono also met with Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and actor Chris Tucker to discuss AIDS in Africa, the Charlotte Observer reports. During the meeting, which was also attended by Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Helms expressed his desire to see the international private sector involved in fighting HIV/AIDS in developing nations. Tucker attended the meeting in preparation for his role in the new movie "Mr. President," in which he plays the first black president of the United States and "eradicates AIDS in Africa" (Hurt, Charlotte Observer, 3/14).