An organization of wealthy industrial nations issued a stinging report Friday criticizing the United States for moving to cut foreign aid when it already gives a smaller share of its economic output to such assistance than any other industrial nation.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based group of 25 nations, said the United States, once far and away the world’s leading donor, was setting a poor example by cutting its aid budget and warned that the move might prompt other countries to follow suit.
Using unusually blunt language, the report said that “this seeming withdrawal from traditional leadership is so grave that it poses a risk of undermining political support for development cooperation” by other donor countries.
The report said the United States had slipped to No. 2, well behind Japan, in the amount of foreign aid provided excluding military assistance.
The United States provided $9.72 billion in 1993, compared with $11.3 billion for Japan.
It said the United States contributed 15-hundredths of one percent of its gross domestic product for economic aid, putting it last among the 25 industrial nations. The average among these nations was 30-hundredths of one percent, while Sweden, Denmark and Norway all give 1 percent of their overall output to foreign aid.
J. Brian Atwood, administrator of the Agency for International Development, the government’s principal aid arm, welcomed the report, making clear that he intends to use it as ammunition in the Clinton administration’s fight to persuade Congress not to cut foreign aid.
At a news briefing Friday, Atwood criticized congressional committees for proposing to cut $3 billion from the $21 billion international affairs budget, which includes State Department spending as well as foreign aid.
“If it is the intent of the Congress to throw our foreign policy into disarray to make the president look bad the next two years, they’ll accomplish that,” he said.
He said foreign aid accounted for less than 1 percent of the federal budget.
Acknowledging that public opinion might be an important factor, the OECD report said: “A perplexing feature of the U.S. development assistance effort is that while public opinion responds readily to situations of acute needs in developing countries, there is no strong public support for the federal aid budget.”
While criticizing Washington’s low level of foreign aid, the report praised several reforms that Atwood is introducing at the Agency for International Development, like slimming down its bureaucracy and cutting some small field offices to save money.