by Emad Mekay
(IPS) WASHINGTON -
- George W. Bush unveiled a proposed increase in foreign aid in the 2004 budget, with most of the raise going to countries that have joined Washington in its self styled "war on terror".
"The budget for 2004 meets the challenges posed by three national priorities: winning the war against terrorism, securing the homeland, and generating long term economic growth," Bush said in a statement on the White House website.
State Department officials told reporters that the increase in the foreign affairs budget, part of the department's allocations, would target security assistance to help key countries that have signed on to the anti- terrorism campaign, launched after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
According to the State Department, $4.7 billion have been set aside for counterterrorism, compared to $2 billion for what the department said would be new programs for poverty.
"There is no doubt that this budget funds the president's commitment to winning the war on terror," said Christopher B. Burnham, assistant secretary for resource management. "It's reflected throughout the numbers and reflected throughout the foreign assistance."
The amount would include military assistance to what the officials called "frontline states", a group of 25 countries that includes the Philippines, Afghanistan and Yemen, nations that have joined the so -called war on terror.
The aid would be in the form of defense services, equipment, and training.
Of the $2 billion assigned for the fight against poverty, $1.3 billion will go to the Millennium Challenge Account, an assistance program proposed by Bush last year to tie increased development aid to governments' efforts to improve education, democracy and other governance indicators.
The new program reflects the administration's commitment to help create democratic, economically secure countries, Burnham said.
Despite accusations from anti poverty activists that the Account would be inadequate to meet the huge needs of poor nations, officials said the $1.3 billion was adequate to fully fund the first of a five year program.
"$1.3 billon is already a considerable amount, understanding that it takes some lee time before you can develop the kind of pipeline to execute the project the administration envisions for the Millennium Challenge Account," said Joseph W. Bowab, deputy assistant secretary for foreign assistance programs and budget.
States receiving Account funds will be answerable for the money and will need to meet certain criteria established by a new authority that will monitor the account.
All countries with average per capita incomes below $1,435 will be eligible.
Officials say the new funding mechanism will reward nations that root out corruption, respect human rights, adhere to the rule of law and invest in better health care, better schools, increased immunization and that open their markets.
Sixteen countries are on the initial list to be evaluated after Congress approves the program in coming months, said Patrick Cronin, assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Of the $2 billion in the budget request for anti poverty efforts, $450 million would go to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic, focussing on Africa and the Caribbean.
On other fronts, more than $730 million are budgeted for support anti narcotics efforts in the Andean region. Colombia will get $463 million. "That's another war we intend to win," Burnham said.
Such increases fall under the umbrella of $28.5 billion allocated to foreign affairs agencies, an 11.2 percent increase from 2003.
But those numbers contrast starkly with the whopping allocations Bush requested for the U.S. military $380 billion, a $15 billion hike from 2003.
The budget also calls for $41 billion for homeland security, a jump of $2.5 billion or 7.6 percent, which would more than double funding over the past two years.
Total U.S. government spending in 2004 will be $2.2 trillion, a 4.2 percent increase over 2003 levels.
February 7, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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