Partisan fighting over the budget, the arbitrary squeeze of Gramm-Rudman-Hollings on federal spending, and the disparate foreign-policy agendas of Congress and the Administration are creating unprecedented chaos these days for the U.S. foreign-affairs budgets. The confusion risks important American foreign-policy initiatives.
The desperate condition of millions of people is largely ignored in the present debate. The bulk of the foreign aid that has survived the congressional ax is military aid and is concentrated on a half-dozen nations. The individual prejudices of a relatively small group of Congress members imperil the single most effective assistance program for the poorest of the poor--the World Bank's International Development Assn. As a result, the United States, with 47% of the income of the industrialized market-economy nations, provides only 30% of the official development assistance.
Africa, the most distressed continent, is the worst affected. American aid to sub-Sahara Africa has been cut in half since 1985 even as the needs, and the opportunities, have grown. A total of 22 African nations have accepted stringent reform measures in recent months to accelerate economic development, but there has been no response in terms of aid increases. A constructive proposal in Congress to reverse this trend faces a crucial test Tuesday when the House Foreign Relations Committee marks up authorization legislation.