A more effective approach to foreign aid is necessary

Recent proposals by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) to establish an American-Pakistan Enterprise Fund to channel aid to that country should help focus the debate over the administration’s emerging international development policy. How much U.S. aid should be given directly to foreign governments and how much will be delivered in the form of technical assistance and training by U.S. voluntary organizations and development firms? 

Some believe dated aid programs at the State Department and USAID justify a wholesale shift away from assistance delivered by U.S. companies and non-profits to direct assistance to foreign governments and local organizations. Others see grave risks to both development outcomes and budget integrity in setting direct assistance as a policy default because nations needing aid the most, as a rule, also lack the capacity to undertake and sustain complex development efforts effectively.

A more effective “whole of government” approach to foreign aid is needed. But a blanket preference for direct aid ignores the reason developmental assistance is essential to nations such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, where huge U.S. aid commitments are now being programmed. Those nations do not have established economic capacity or necessary fiscal controls. Assistance provided through proven experts, has as a core value and requirement, development of that capacity. In many parts of the world, the most powerful drivers of sustainable economic growth — women — would never get access to the information and technology they need without outside help.

Where capacity is lacking, the type of capacity building conducted through donor-managed projects should be a top priority, with the goal of enabling more direct assistance once the requisite infrastructure is in place. For development firms and other U.S. aid implementers, this type of local capacity building through mentoring, partnering, technical training and more, are central tenets of their development strategies. Typically, U.S.-funded projects employ ten or more locals for every U.S. citizen working on the ground.  Those local employees take ownership, sustain and build those projects long after U.S. involvement ends.  Many go on to be community and government leaders. That’s proven capacity building.

The work of assessing recipient nation capacity to account for aid is just beginning, according to recent testimony by the Government Accountability Office before a House Appropriations Subcommittee. That panel held back $4 billion in aid to Afghanistan based on concerns about capacity and corruption.  To address those concerns, aid agencies must conduct analyses of host country acquisition systems to ensure they contain thorough oversight and transparency mechanisms. Absent quantifiable assurances that U.S. investments will be used for improvement, the U.S. should continue to exercise managerial and oversight control over the bulk of the foreign aid programs and projects funded with dollars, as the USAID logo announces, “from the American people.”

Arlington, Va.

Senate takes another bite at EPA greenhouse apple

From Steve Milloy, publisher of JunkScience.com and author of “Green Hell”

The Senate could partially redeem the 111th Congress when the Appropriations Committee votes on the EPA budget.

Two Democrats, Sen. Ben Nelson and Sen. Byron Dorgan say they might vote for an appropriations rider blocking EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Given the Committee’s 18-12 party split, only two more Democrats and Republican unanimity would stop the EPA from implementing the highly controversial environmental/energy/economic regulation.

Those two Democrats might not be hard to find because Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) and Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) voted last June for the Murkowski resolution to block EPA regulation. And Sen. Tim Johnson (S.D.) co-sponsored the Rockefeller proposal to delay EPA regulation.

Why should the committee rein in the EPA?

First, GHG regulation would impact the whole economy, affecting 70 percent of electricity generation and nearly 100 percent of transportation energy use. Congress, not a single federal agency, is the right forum to deliberate such a huge issue.

Next, GHG regulation would raise energy costs without providing any offsetting and near-term economic benefits. EPA has shown little concern over hindering economic recovery, so it’s time for Congress to assert its authority.

Third, many misapprehend that the Supreme Court ordered the EPA to regulate GHGs. In Massachusetts v. EPA, the court merely ruled the agency could, not must, regulate GHGs. Evidence of this fact is that the Bush EPA opted not to regulate, while the Obama administration reversed that decision.

It’s no secret President Obama ordered the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases to prod Congress and industry on GHGs. The Senate now has another chance (after the Murkowski resolution) to reassert Congress as the driver of this major policy.

Moreover, the EPA might have illegally issued its so-called “tailoring rule,” one of the GHG regulations. Under existing law, if the EPA decides to regulate a “pollutant,” then all sources emitting 250 tons annually must be regulated.

But the EPA unilaterally decided to change the law. During the past year, the EPA has, without congressional authorization, raised the threshold from 250 tons to 100,000 tons to avoid regulating thousands of small businesses and apartment buildings.

If Senate Democrats want to stem electoral massacres, they should remember that America has rejected “cap-and-trade” and that EPA regulation amounts simply to “cap” — all pain with no gain. Those who don’t try to stop the EPA will be in deep trouble this fall and in 2012.

Potomac, Md.