Shah Discusses Foreign Aid Efficiency

At an event on Friday in Seattle, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah discussed foreign aid efficacy and ways “to streamline the federal agency and to help make the whole U.S. aid budget easier to understand and track,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports. Shah said that the Obama administration is concerned about foreign aid transparency and its effectiveness, adding: “The president continues to live up to the overall commitment to develop foreign assistance.”

“Shah said foreign aid helps prevent or decrease conflicts over food shortages, it keeps young people away from radical extremism, and it leads to self-sufficiency and makes future aid less necessary. He said it is also important to demonstrate that the big problems of the world are solvable,” according to the news service.

Technology will play a key role in some USAID initiatives, including Feed the Future, Shah said.  He also discussed the vision for President Obama’s Global Health Initiative (Blankinship, 8/13).

According to the Seattle Times, Shah said, “If we can continue to show things are really effective, generate results with the dollars and take efficiency very, very seriously, I believe Americans want to do more.” The administrator also spoke about USAID’s new evidence-based approach, which he said had improved Haiti aid programs, the newspaper writes. “To boost access to safe water, USAID made it mandatory for trucks providing fresh water to also distribute chlorine tablets to Haitians. Diarrheal disease is now 12 percent lower than it was the day before the earthquake, he said” (Heim, 8/13).

Representatives Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) also spoke at the event, which was hosted by the organization Global Washington, according to a press release. Other speakers included: Prema Arasu, associate vice president for international programs at Washington State University; Akhtar Badshah, senior director of global community affairs at Microsoft; Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global development program; and PATH CEO and President Christopher Elias (8/13).

According to the AP/Seattle Times, both McDermott and Smith said the difficult economic climate will affect the foreign aid budget. “We’re going to have to get more out of the money that we have,” Smith said. “This is a tough time to talk about more money for foreign aid.”

McDermott “was more blunt in his assessment of the possibility of new dollars from Washington, D.C., basically saying: don’t go there,” the AP/Seattle Times reports (8/13).

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