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Guest Dispatch: Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance

This week’s Guest Dispatch come from our friend down under, South Florida Attorney and conservative activist Arthur Freyre. Arthur has penned a timely piece on foreign assistance.

Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance

Arthur Freyre, Esq.

The incidents of this past Tuesday in Egypt and Libya has re-sparked the debate in this country concerning the need or use of U.S. foreign aid. Notwithstanding President’s Obama hesitation of calling Egypt an ally, the U.S. gives Egypt over a $1 Billion dollars in foreign aid. Only Afghanistan, Israel, and Pakistan receive more foreign aid than Egypt.

In rethinking our policy of foreign aid, we need to realize that the U.S. may be creating nations that are dependent, instead of helping them join the nations that are economically sufficient. Out of the top 10 recipients, 7 nations are considered to be in the bottom half of the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom.

Something is definitely wrong. The purpose of this post is to have a discussion on U.S. foreign aid. To start this discussion, one would need to assess the goal of foreign aid. When asked the goals for foreign aid, a 2011 congressional research service’s report cited the following goals:

“economic growth and reducing poverty, improving governance, addressing population growth, expanding access to basic education and health care, protecting the environment, promoting stability in conflictive regions, protecting human rights, promoting trade, curbing weapons proliferation, strengthening allies, and addressing drug production and trafficking.”

This looks like a laundry list of wishes, rather than a focused purpose. It can be argued that some of these goals, however noble they are, are creating dependent nations rather than nations that are self-sufficient and prosperous. To give you an example of this sentiment consider the following quote of Mohammed Ibrahim, founder of Celtel, a wireless service in Africa, “…Africa doesn’t need help, doesn’t need aid…It’s a very rich continent. There is no justification for us to be poor.” When asked what will help Africa, Mr. Ibrahim continues by stating that better governance, “will open up the continent for investment. Investment will create jobs, and when people have decent jobs, they look after themselves, they look after the education of their kids, they look after their health.” You can read the entire interview here.

In reassessing foreign aid, our main goal is to transitions those nations that are in poverty to become a self-sustaining country. There is no country in the world that does not have the natural resources to become self-sustaining. Our aid would need to have an expiration date. In other words, our aid should lay the foundation of self-sufficiency for a short period of time. The aid’s focus should be on establishing a fair judicial system and encouraging economic freedom.

Having a fair judicial system includes basic civil and political rights, fair elections, an honest judicial system, and control of corruption. Encouraging economic freedom means that the country receiving aid would need to reform its regulatory system as well reforming property rights. To quote Mr. Ibrahim, “The glaring issue here [in Africa] is the land title. Almost without exception states hold titles to everything, meaning that 70% of the Africans who farm for a living can’t monetize their profits, they have no collateral-if you don’t have title how can you raise money, how can you borrow money?…”

There should be an assessment each year that the aid is given to assess the progress. If there is regression, then the aid should be reduced or even terminated, if the nation refuses these reforms. These reforms in governance and in the economy would help a country from becoming dependent on foreign aid to becoming a self-sustaining country.


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