Beyond Aid in the Global Economy

September 20, 2011 By Joel Paque

Government-to-government assistance programs have changed dramatically since World War II from tools of Cold War diplomacy to instruments to promoting global economic growth. Our current systems of delivering assistance needs to take this new dynamic into account, as do our decisions about funding development assistance. This was part of a message delivered by President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick this week on the state of the global economic recovery.

Zoellick talks about the importance of moving to a world “Beyond Aid,” where assistance programs are conceived of as a way of helping global economic growth, “In a world Beyond Aid, assistance would be integrated with – and connected to – global growth strategies, fundamentally driven by private investment and entrepreneurship.  The goal would not be charity, but a mutual interest in building more poles of growth.” This approach from the World Bank is  consistent with the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development released by the Obama Administration a year ago in its focus on economic growth as a means to reduce poverty and, in turn, U.S. economic prosperity.

Assistance from both multilateral and bilateral donors can create opportunities for businesses around the world. Contrary to those who say that growth in the developing world is at the expense of U.S. jobs due to outsourcing, studies indicate that a 10% increase in exports is associated with a 7% increase in employment.  Exports support more than 10 million jobs in the United States, and export-related jobs pay, on average, 15% more than the average wage.

So how do we take advantage of these opportunities? The International Affairs Budget of the U.S., representing about 1% of the federal budget, funds investments in opening new markets, fostering stability and democracy, and advancing the rule of law. Our diplomacy and development programs also help millions of people each year live healthier, more productive lives through programs to reduce diseases like malaria and HIV, through increased access to education for young girls, through better nutrition for new mothers and their children. For instance, a UN report found that  over 53% of all absenteeism  from work in some African countries was related to HIV/AIDS, and health costs per employee have risen as much as five times. Programs like PEPFAR are working every day to reduce the number of HIV affected individuals in these countries, which can help stop this decrease in productivity. While these humanitarian benefits should not be forgotten, as Congress and the President continue to address the deficit while simultaneously trying to jumpstart a sluggish economy, it is imperative that they take into account the economic advantages of maintaining a strong and effective International Affairs Budget.