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Opinions: Budget Talks, Foreign Aid; Making Drugs More Accessible To Poor

Federal Government Shutdown Would Be Over Ideological Demands Of GOP, Not Spending

“If the federal government shuts down at midnight on Friday – which seems likely unless negotiations take a sudden turn toward rationality – it will not be because of disagreements over spending. It will be because Republicans are refusing to budge on these ideological demands,” argues a New York Times editorial, highlighting issues such as “foreign aid to countries that might use the money for abortion or family planning … [and] aid to the United Nations Population Fund, which supports family-planning services.”

“Democrats have already gone much too far in giving in to the House demands for spending cuts. The $33 billion that they have agreed to cut will pull an enormous amount of money from the economy at exactly the wrong time, and will damage dozens of vital programs,” the editorial states. “But it turns out that all those excessive cuts they volunteered were worth far less to the Republicans than the policy riders that are the real holdup to a deal,” the editorial states, concluding, “Democrats in the White House and the Senate say they will not give in to this policy extortion, and we hope they do not weaken. These issues have no place in a stopgap spending bill a few minutes from midnight” (4/8).

When The Dust Settles From Budget Talks, Foreign Aid Likely To Suffer

“Though the dust [from FY11 budget talks] will take time to settle, whatever the outcome, one of the casualties will almost certainly be U.S. foreign aid, which constitutes less than 1% of the federal budget,” contributor Claire Provost writes in a post on the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog,” where she outlines how budget cuts could impact global health programs.

Provost describes the impact of the looming federal government shutdown on U.S. development agencies and programs. “According to the Cable’s Josh Rogin, a government shutdown would mean that about two-thirds of the State Department and USAID staff in Washington would be furloughed, forced to take a temporary leave of absence, though most personnel at US foreign missions would be retained,” she writes, describing reports of programs being delayed due out of concerns over future funding.

“Whatever the outcome of this budget struggle, though, bigger battles will come this summer in Congress,” when decisions about FY12 are up for debate, she concludes (4/8).

Providing Money Through USAID Isn’t Only Way To Alleviate Disease, Poverty In World

In a post on Foreign Policy’s “Shadow Government” blog, Kori Schake, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, calls into question USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s recent testimony to the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee that the proposed House budget bill would kill 70,000 children. It’s “[h]ard to say which is more offensive, Shah threatening Congress will have blood on its hands unless it continues to fund USAID programs, or the bureaucratic and cultural mindset that considers increased spending the only solution to a multivariate problem,” Schake writes.

“Providing money through the Agency for International Development is by no means the only – or even the most effective – way to alleviate disease and poverty in the world,” Schake continues. “Case in point: funding for AID was dramatically cut in the 1990s, and yet that decade saw nearly a billion people lifted out of poverty by actual economic development,” Schake adds, before offering several recommendations for how USAID could cut spending (4/7).

Drug Innovators Should Be Rewarded According To Impact Of Medicine

In order to make affordable drugs accessible to the world’s poor, Thomas Pogge, a professor of philosophy and international affairs at Yale, in a post on the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog,” proposes the drug development system be reformed so that drug makers are “rewarded according to the impact of their medicine, and people … contribute to these rewards according to their ability to pay.” Pogge writes, “The current system is deeply entrenched in the World Trade Organisation’s agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (Trips). But reform can be achieved without revision,” and describes how a mechanism known as the Health Impact Fund (HIF) could promote investment in medicines for the poor.

“The HIF would fill a fatal gap in the Trips system by stimulating the development of high-impact medicines against diseases concentrated among the poor. Moreover, all HIF-registered products would be available everywhere at a very low price from day one, making them affordable to poor populations and bringing savings to more affluent populations who support the HIF through their taxes. Finally, any registrant would have financial incentives to ensure that even the poorest potential beneficiaries of its products have real access to them and can use them to optimal effect – in the HIF’s accounting, health gains for poor people count exactly the same as health gains for the affluent,” Pogge writes (4/7).

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