Opinion

The crippling effect of 'America first' policies on U.S. foreign aid

To the editor: It’s impossible to accurately assess the impact of U.S. foreign aid without looking at how the money is spent. Historically, most U.S. foreign assistance is given to American companies and nonprofits in the form of contracts and grants. This is not a good thing. (“U.S. foreign aid: A waste of money or a boost to world stability? Here are the facts,” May 10)

Addressing corruption is important, but the broken contracts system can mean more than half of grants for overseas humanitarian work are spent in the U.S. President Trump’s “America First” agenda will only make this worse.

Forcing grantees to buy American rather than source locally results in inflated prices and doesn’t deliver what’s needed. Huge sums are also paid to big audit firms. These are some of the reasons why my organization, ActionAid USA, doesn’t accept USAID funding.

Local people don’t want to be dependent on aid. They want to build their own businesses and feed their families. Overseas aid is very important, but it must be better delivered.

Marie Clarke, Washington

The writer is executive director of the anti-poverty nongovernmental organization ActionAid USA.

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To the editor: This article laid out the issues in connection with U.S. foreign aid. Among the supporting arguments is “helping to stabilize nations by promoting democracy, human rights and good governance around the world.”

This has been a contentious matter with other countries that feel they should define for themselves what good government is. Our activity in this respect is considered by a number of countries to be arrogant, unfriendly, hegemonic and a sign of our hubris.

Robert L. Turner, Santa Barbara

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