Obama's Anti-Poverty Investments Stay Flat

By Alex Blair

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Oxfam deeply concerned disaster and humanitarian cuts threaten President's ambitions to "end extreme poverty"

Washington – President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget request for foreign aid does not reflect the severity of the global crises we face, said global relief and development organization Oxfam America. While the budget outlined by the administration increased funding for some priority programs, life-saving poverty and disaster response programs faced cuts. 

“The administration is essentially betting that there won’t be any natural disasters or humanitarian crises this year,” said Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and campaigns at Oxfam America. “With more than 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day, spending less than 1 percent of the budget on foreign aid will have virtually no impact on our deficit, but will have life or death consequences for those living in poverty. President Obama has said he wants to end extreme poverty, but maintaining the status quo will not enable that change.”

The president’s budget makes unnecessary and disturbing cuts to poverty-fighting programs such as International Disaster Assistance and the Emergency Food Security Program (EFSP). However, it continues to send the right message on several key policy priorities including international food aid reform and transparency for oil and other extractive companies. The budget proposal continues the administration’s push to modernize and improve the efficiency of international food aid programs. The recently passed Farm Bill took the first steps towards bringing food aid programs into the 21st century and revealed the substantial bipartisan support in Congress for changes that would save more lives. The budget proposal builds on these changes by adding much needed flexibility to allow USAID to get food to hungry people faster and at a lower cost.

“The president’s budget proposal continues to make international food aid reform a priority,” O’Brien said. “This proposal will increase the number of people reached per dollar and make aid programs more efficient. It should be included in the final budget that passes Congress as a stepping stone for further reform.”

This year’s budget request is the first in years to increase funding for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).  Oxfam is pleased to see this increase.  The MCC is America’s foremost tool for encouraging good governance and broad-based economic growth.  By making a strong commitment to the MCC, the Obama administration is demonstrating its commitment to invest in success among developing countries.

However, Oxfam is deeply concerned about cuts to International Disaster Assistance (IDA), which was cut by $500 million from Fiscal Year 2014. Due to the high number of emergency needs, this funding means that life-saving programs like Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) face massive cuts. DRR empowers local communities to prepare for crises and manage the environment and resources. These programs save the most money and lives, but are sure to be cut due to the reduced IDA. Oxfam and the humanitarian community requested $2.1 billion to meet current challenges and international disasters. Oxfam is also concerned about funding for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), which was cut by $53 million, and is funded through the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative. This new initiative would be paid for through a mix of revenue increases and mandatory spending cuts, which may prove unpopular on Capitol Hill.

“International Disaster Assistance and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programs were the losers in the budget, but local farmers and communities will be most impacted,” said O’Brien. “Reducing programs that help people lift themselves out of poverty or respond to disasters will only cost taxpayers more over the long term. Congress must protect these small but critically important parts of our country’s budget, which save lives, spur economic growth, and make the world a safer and more stable place.”

A bright spot in the budget is the continued support of transparency in the extractive industries through the implementation of Section 1504 of Dodd-Frank, which requires the disclosure of payments by US-listed oil, gas and mining companies to the US and foreign governments. The president has said that transparency is a priority for his administration. The president should urge the Securities and Exchange Commission to follow suit by reissuing a final rule without any further delay.  

The president’s budget instructs the Secretary of the Treasury to inform international financial institutions that the US will vote against any assistance for the extraction of natural resources to countries that block payment disclosure as required under Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act. There is no evidence that any country currently prohibits such payment disclosures.

/ENDS

Oxfam America is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice.  We save lives, develop long-term solutions to poverty, and campaign for social change.  As one of 17 members of the international Oxfam confederation, we work with people in more than 90 countries to create lasting solutions. To join our efforts or learn more, go to www.oxfamamerica.org

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