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Foreign Aid Hits Lowest Level in Two Decades : Other rich nations follow U.S. in cutting back while poverty spreads, world surveys show.

June 13, 1995|ROBIN WRIGHT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The UNICEF target is for donor states to provide less than 1%--just 0.70%--of GNP. The United States gives 0.15%, in contrast with the 0.30% average among the other 20 top donors.

Washington cut back overall foreign aid by about 5% in 1994. Those cutbacks affected bilateral aid to countries such as Israel and Egypt, the longtime top recipients; emergency relief to crises areas such as Somalia and Rwanda, and multilateral assistance through institutions such as the World Bank.

Cuts in bilateral development programs since 1992, the last year of the Bush Administration, through fiscal 1995 total almost 20%, according to AID officials. AID funds often have the most direct effect on the poor abroad.

And a majority in Congress is now backing the House-approved 35% cut in bilateral aid for fiscal 1996.

In an overview of aid, the OECD charged that "this seeming withdrawal from traditional leadership is so grave that it poses a risk of undermining political support for development cooperation" by other contributors.

Perhaps ironically, the new reports coincide with a new study that finds "a strong majority" of Americans favor either maintaining or increasing U.S. foreign aid.

And a strong majority would also be willing to pay more taxes if they believed that more aid would get to the people who need it.

In a post-Cold War world, the U.S. public appears to want greater emphasis on helping the poor and less on securing strategic allies and military bases abroad.

The study, conducted by the Center for the Study of Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, concluded that "an overwhelming majority rejects the idea that the United States should only give when it promotes the U.S. national interest."

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U.S. Foreign Aid, 1947-94

The modern U.S. foreign aid program began with the 1947 Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Western Europe after World War II. Aid levels fell sharply as Europe stabilized. Then, during the 1960s and 1970s, America expanded aid to allies in the Middle East and Asia. In the 1980s, with the decline of the Soviet threat, aid levels fell off again.

Source: U.S. Agency for International Development

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Giving Till It Hurts

Overall, the United States ranks second in giving among advanced nations, but lowest in relation to gross national product.

Sources: Development Assistance Committee Report; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

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