Making Smart Investments

Posted by Rajiv Shah
February 16, 2012

The Fiscal Year 2013 International Affairs budget, which was released on February 13, showcases President Obama's commitment to making smart, efficient investments to help those in the greatest need while helping to create economic opportunity and safeguarding American security.

It is important to remember that these numbers represent lives around the world that can be supported and saved through our smart investments in agriculture, health, and access to clean water, among other programs. And these investments come at an incredibly small fraction of our national budget -- in the case of development assistance, less than one percent.

Similar investments we made last year demonstrated a number of important results. Thanks to our investments in humanitarian assistance, we were able to save tens of thousands of lives in the Horn of Africa after a devastating drought led to famine and threw over 13 million people into crisis. U.S. support helped provide lifesaving AIDS drugs to nearly 4 million people, protect 200,000 infants from HIV infection and keep millions of children throughout Africa safe from malaria. And our agricultural investments are supporting the goal of lifting 18 million people from a state of hunger and poverty.

Despite those results, we've had to make difficult choices this year, consolidating some programs and eliminating others. Our 2013 budget shows a willingness to focus on countries and programs where we believe we can make the greatest impact.

Global health is a key part of our investment in economic and human security. Our request goes to cost-effective, proven global health interventions delivered through President Obama's Global Health Initiative. These investments will help achieve a number of the President's ambitious global health goals, including saving the lives of five million children by the year 2015 and expanding HIV/AIDS treatment. Thanks to the falling costs of health commodities, including contraceptives, malaria bednets and antiretroviral drugs, and increased investments by partner governments, we can now save more lives.

$1 billion of our FY 2013 request is devoted to Feed the Future, President Obama's landmark food security initiative. These investments will help countries develop their own agricultural economies and grow their way out of hunger and poverty, rather than relying on humanitarian food aid that costs us seven times as much to deliver. We've also designed a results framework so we can transparently measure and demonstrate the impact our investments have made in fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Our budget request maintains robust funding for our humanitarian accounts. Efficiencies in our use of these resources will ensure we have the necessary means to continue U.S. leadership in responding to natural and man-made disasters, just as we did last year after a devastating drought in the Horn of Africa. In addition, we continue to increase our focus on preventing future crises through disaster risk reduction activities and funding for greater resilience against food shocks through Feed the Future.

Changing the way we do business. In line with the Secretary's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, USAID developed a suite of reforms called USAID Forward. These reforms are helping our staff deliver faster and more lasting results. These investments allow us to fund innovative technologies that can change the way development is done. For instance, we've developed a series of Grand Challenges for Development that encourage entrepreneurs and researchers to develop new solutions to intractable development challenges. Our first Grand Challenge -- Saving Lives of Birth -- leveraged $8 million from partner governments and private sector donors to help mothers safely give birth even if they can't reach a hospital or clinic.

Our USAID Forward reforms also give our Missions and contracting officers the flexibility to partner directly with local governments, entrepreneurs and NGOs that can build sustainable institutions at lower cost. Those investments will help countries build their own capacity, giving them the tools they need to chart their own futures.

Finally, we will invest in the key to all of these efforts: our staff. These funds will strengthen and support our workforce, protecting them in frontline states, supporting them in embassies and missions and giving them the tools they need to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.

The investments included in the FY13 budget will improve the lives of people throughout the world. For millions, this assistance can literally mean the difference between life and death.

But we shouldn't lose sight that these investments aren't just from the American people -- as USAID's motto says -- they're for the American people. By fighting hunger and disease, we defuse the anger and injustice that can fuel conflict. By investing in growth and prosperity, we create stronger trade partners for our country's exports -- 10 of the top 15 American export markets are current or former recipients and aid.

And above all, by extending freedom, opportunity and dignity to people throughout the world, we express our core American values.

This entry also appears on USAID's Impact Blog.



New Mexico, USA
February 19, 2012

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Dr. Shaw,

I think there's a simple, strait forward way to convince Congress to give USAID and the State Dept. every penny of the budget requests of both.

That is to simply compile the total cost in US dollars (w/addendum of the human toll included separately) of the multiple crisis crerated, instigated, and furthered by dictators, tyrants and proxi's of terror and their sponsors on a global scale.

I'm envisioning a massive accounting project, country by country since the end of WW2 and the start of the Marshall plan.

Every Country "desk" @ State being the lead on compiling the data set for each country, from an interagency accounting of the cost to the American taxpayer from all the efforts America has undertaken to resolve conflict, engage in diplomacy, provide security and freedom of navigation, humanitarian assistance, development assistance, economic assistance, the returns on our investments, and accounting of the loss of potential GNP of countries under the boot of dictators and tyrants, and as well those in unresolved conflict at present.

The purpose of which would not be simply to convince the doubters that the American taxpayer actually has gotten a really good return on our government's wise investment in the well being of humanity in general (albeit a work in progress), but to give the rest of the world a solidly based accounting of what putting up with dictators like Assad actually costs everyone on this planet in terms of reduced human potential, and put a dollar figure on the economic aspect of this.

Boil that down to what it costs each individual on this planet per day to bear witness to, and reveal all the hidden costs inherant in leaving dictators in power to do what they do best...which is simply to make life as misurable for everyone as possible, for as long as possible. Except themselves of course, as only in their lasdt breaths do they realize they have brought misery upon themselves as well.

If the world is going to eradicate disease, famine, poverty, and conflict born on political injustice, and ethnic dicision, then I think folks should have a real good idea what it costs everyone, not just the American taxpayer, to put up with it, let alone address it under budgetary resatraints and economic uncertainties in an election cycle, with a Congress gripped by partisan paralysis.

Call it gut instinct Dr. Shaw, but I'm correct, this accounting will shock folks around the globe into traking immediate action to rid this planet of the perpetrators of crimes against humanity, for their own fiscal survival.

If for no other altruistic reasoning present and accounted for among nations concerned.

When Sec. Clinton talked about the return on the Marshal plan, and all the trade we do with Europe today, I don't think she imagined just how far this citizen would be willing to take that, but there are far better number crunchers than I to do the job and produce the results I've envisioned here.

And as well, I've only listed a few of the parameters of the study as data sources.

But I think it would be well worth doing if it will help change the global mindset that allows dictators to remain in power today.

In the end run, I think it will make your job a lot easier to convince folks to give you'all what you need to get your job done properly.

Best Regards,



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