Money is pouring into the Philippines in the wake of the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). But, to state the blatantly obvious, it’s not just the amount of assistance that matters, it’s how it’s spent. But here’s a question: will anyone actually be able to identify how that assistance is spent?
Secretary of State John Kerry and US Agency for International Development Administrator Raj Shah met separately this week with the heads of several United Nations and other international humanitarian and relief agencies, including the World Food Program, about the situation in Syria.
The Royce-Engel amendment to reform US food aid failed 203-220 in the House this week, as did the farm bill to which it was attached. The food aid amendment would have relaxed requirements that the United States buy American commodities and ship them on US ships. It's painful to see a smart foreign aid reform that would save lives and taxpayer money suffer a narrow defeat.
A dispiriting exercise in blame-shifting took place in early June at the World Trade Organization (WTO). Trade negotiators have been trying for months to find a few items where they agree so they can declare the Bali ministerial meeting in December a success, and then bury the broader Doha Round.
The Obama administration’s FY14 budget request included a food aid reform proposal that the administration estimated would allow US food aid to reach an addition 2-4 million people per year—for roughly what the United States spends now. My colleagues Kim Elliott and Will McKitterick have a new brief out that argues this is a conservative estimate. Their calculations suggest that the reforms would help at least 4 million more people, and maybe as many as 10 million for the same amount of money as under the current inefficient system.
The Obama administration’s proposal for food aid reform is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, but it is still a big step in the right direction. Overall, the administration estimates that the proposal would allow roughly the same level of funds for food aid to reach an additional 4 million people, and do so more quickly in emergencies.