President’s budget proposal supports key programs and pushes important reforms

By Laura Rusu

International relief and development organization Oxfam America praised President Obama for putting his support behind key lifesaving programs and for pushing forward some much-needed reforms through his proposed budget released today.

The President’s budget proposed level funding for key anti-poverty programs, such as Feed the Future, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, while pushing forward reforms of America’s food aid programs that would help feed possibly millions more people with no additional costs to the American taxpayer. The budget release comes as Oxfam America prepares to unveil findings from a field survey that shows marked improvements in US development efforts on the ground.

“President Obama is walking the talk by supporting key global anti-poverty programs, while also taking an important step towards long overdue reforms to bring food aid into the 21st century,” said Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and campaigns at Oxfam America. “Now it’s up to Congress to fund these life-saving programs and take up common sense reforms of the food aid program; first to assist hungry people, second to honor taxpayers.”

The United States is the world’s most generous donor of food aid, but numerous studies by the Government Accountability Office among others have shown that the system for delivering that aid is plagued by inefficiencies and waste. President Obama’s proposal would allow humanitarian responders more flexibly, such as purchasing food from local or regional sources. This shift, if passed by Congress, would allow US aid to reach millions more people with life-saving aid at no additional cost to American taxpayers. Although number of aid agencies, including Oxfam, are supporting this reform, special interests in Washington who profit from the current system are already trying to block President Obama’s proposal.

“Those in Washington who are interested in fiscally responsibility should throw their full support behind the President’s leadership to modernize our aid programs, especially food aid,” said O’Brien. “The President’s proposal will get food to more hungry people faster, cheaper and more efficiently. Congress should quickly turn the proposal into law.”

The reform of US-funded food assistance programs is part of a wider effort on the part of President Obama’s Administration to modernize development assistance so that it’s more efficient and truly delivers in the fight against poverty. Other reforms, such as Implementation and Procurement Reform, are rooted in the recognition that there’s tremendous value in the power of local people to decide how aid is spent, and how to execute and lead their own development efforts in partnership with the US.

Despite coming under fire from vested interests in Washington, reforms already put in place by the Obama Administration are making waves on the ground in developing countries. Findings from a survey conducted by Oxfam America with citizens, civil society representatives, businesspeople and public officials in seven US aid recipient countries reveal that such reforms are making a difference and are getting noticed. Over 83% of respondents surveyed by Oxfam call US a better development partner than five years ago.

“The Obama Administration is recognizing that there’s tremendous value in the power of local people to decide how aid is spent, and how to execute and lead their own development efforts in partnership with the US,” continued O’Brien. "Congress must now deepen and accelerate reforms, while continuing to support the small but critically important parts of our country’s budget to save lives, help people lift themselves out of poverty, spur economic growth, and make the world a better and safer place.”

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