Bush administration comes under fire, despite announcement to increase aid

The Associated Press
Wednesday March 20, 2002

MONTERREY, Mexico — Days after the United States promised a 50 percent increase in foreign aid, the Bush administration is coming under fire for not doing enough — and not doing it right. 

Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that President Bush’s pledge to increase aid by $5 billion over a three-year period was a minuscule amount compared to the country’s overall wealth. 

“With President Bush’s commitment carried out, we’ll be giving 12 parts of out of 10,000 of our Gross National Product,” Carter said. “That’s a tiny bit.” 

Carter, who spoke on the second day of the U.N. International Conference on Financing for Development in the northern city of Monterrey, also expressed concerns about Bush tying that aid to political conditions. 

“I hope there won’t be any political aspects to it because most of our aid now is given for political purposes,” Carter said. 

“If we set down strict criteria that that country can’t receive assistance before they prove that they’re going to be efficient, they will never get any help,” he said. “So we’re going to have to be generous and not just be demanding.” 

Last week, Bush pledged $5 billion more in foreign aid, and suggested the money be given away in the form of grants to countries with relatively stable financial and political systems. U2 singer Bono, who has argued against saddling poor nations with too many loans, helped him make the announcement. 

On Tuesday, U.S. Undersecretary of State Alan Larson said at the conference that Bush will likely raise aid levels even further in the future if he sees countries making efforts to reduce corruption, build a democracy and open doors to business. 

European leaders, who pledged last week to increase aid levels by $20 billion by 2006, argue that giving money out in grants instead of loans could eventually drain World Bank coffers at a time when development aid levels are already declining. 

“We may not be able to do as much for the least-developed countries,” EU Development Commissioner Poul Nielson said Tuesday on the sidelines of the conference. “The role of the bank is a bank.” 

The World Bank says more than 95 percent of all loans are repaid, allowing it to continue to hand out credit to needy countries, and bank officials have expressed concern that too many grants could cause future problems.