A Hand Up or A Handout?

We decided to translate this article from yesterday’s al-Shorouk more as a public service than anything else, since “Washington Continues to Deliver Aid to Egypt” is a non-story in the US press, and/but we figured information about this year’s aid package should be available in English somewhere, and the story is interesting enough as a statement of US priorities in Egypt to warrant translation. We’ve added some comments into the body of the article (in parenthesis and italicized) when we thought them necessary, but otherwise we’ll let the numbers speak for themselves. Special thanks to reader ES for bringing the article to our attention.

Here are a few background links:

  • TBE’s B-School correspondent wrote this article about the Egyptian-American defense relationship, including the aid process, earlier this year. Unfortunately you have to register for a free trial to read the whole thing, but it’s worth it since so little information on the topic is generally available.
  • We haven’t had a chance to read this white paper about USAID’s role in Egypt’s development yet, so can’t vouch for it, but we will read it when we have time. It’s by an employee of the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry.
  • POMED regularly covers Middle East foreign aid issues. Here’s their report on the 2010 US federal budget.
  • Shadi Hamid wrote an article in the most recent issue of “Democracy: A Journal of Ideas” offering a damning assessment US aid to Egypt under Obama. The article makes a lot of good points, and we plan to address some of them, along with some weaknesses, in a separate post.

From al-Shorouk’s Saturday, December 12 edition:

American Aid to Egypt Without Conditions in 2010

On Thursday, the US House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee revealed its version of the final US budget for 2010. The budget devoted to the State Department and foreign aid totaled $48.76 billion. There were no references in the bill of any conditions attached to military or economic aid to Egypt in this first budget since the election of Barack Obama. Instead, the draft bill referred to cooperation with Egypt and its role in helping the United States in the Middle East.

In the final years of George Bush’s presidency, the Congress put conditions on aid to Egypt, which put a strain on relations between the two countries. Congress tied $100 million of the grant money to improvements in the level of democracy and human rights in Egypt, while leaving the door open for the Secretary of State to disburse those funds 45 days after the draft budget appeared if she felt it was in the service of US national security. (TBE: We were under the impression that Congress’ (toothless) threats to withhold aid were more about Egypt making more of an effort to secure the Gaza border, and the whole human rights/democratization part was window dressing.)

The Appropriations Committee’s bill, which will be voted on before the end of the year, is the final version before being signed into law by the president. It now awaits only a vote by the full House, which will vote without making any amendments or changes to the current bill, except for $50 million of the economic aid that the Egyptian government asked to be set aside to establish a deposit or endowment to which the Egyptian government will also contribute. No details about the deposit have been revealed yet, and the matter was left for the US secretary of state to discuss with the committee in the coming period.

The final version of the draft bill contained grants to Egypt of $1.295 billion, in addition to the $260 million included in the 2009 supplemental budget. Aid to Egypt in 2010 will thus reach $1.55 billion, of which $250 million is for economic aid and $1.305 billion is for military aid.

Of the $250 million, $25 million is earmarked for programs supporting democracy, human rights and good governance in Egypt (TBE: The Hamid article linked above states $20 million was the figure in Obama’s budget request, so maybe Congress dictated a slight increase) and $35 million for education, including $10 million in scholarships for Egyptian students pursuing higher education in the US. (TBE: We would be interested in seeing how many students actually get scholarships and how much is swallowed up by administrative costs.)

The largest part of the development aid is for economic and fiscal reform, and to help the Egyptian private sector become more competitive.

The bill also pointed to Egypt’s help at the military-civilian hospital at Bagram in Afghanistan (TBE: We didn’t know about this. The article doesn’t say Bagram Airbase, but maybe it’s safe to assume.), acknowledged Egypt’s role in the struggle against terrorism, and Egypt’s efforts to secure its borders and prevent smuggling. Included in the military aid was funding to train 150 Egyptian officers in the latest counter-terrorism methods.

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