US slashes aid to India by 35%

Written by Press Trust of India | Washington, Jul 24 | Updated: Jul 25 2007, 17:39pm hrs
The US is set to cut aid to India by 35% in 2008 after the South Asian nation was categorised as a transforming country with one of the best-performing economies in the world, in a sweeping overhaul of the US foreign assistance programme.

Indias aid was slashed to $81 million after it was categorised as a transforming country instead of a developing one under a plan developed by Randall L Tobias, a corporate veteran chosen by secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to manage foreign assistance, the Washington Post said.

India is now taking a different place on the global stage, in terms of diplomacy, politics and economy, US state department spokesperson Sean McCormack was quoted as saying by The Post. Aid programmes had not caught up with these evolving realities, he added.

The Washington Post has pointed out that the bulk of the $23 billion in annual US foreign aid goes to a handful of key countries, leaving about 120 nations to battle over $3 billion of the pie. India is one of the big losers in Rices foreign aid revolution. All US aid to assist India in education, womens rights, democracy and sanitation will be terminated under the new overhaul of the US foreign assistance programme.

One promising US-funded programme in India is Quest, a partnership with technology firms such as Microsoft and Lucent aimed at teaching critical skills in Indian classrooms. With Washington promising about $2 million a year, Quest expanded from 200 to 2,000 schools in just one year.

But without a continued US contribution, the initiative probably will not survive, Aakash Sethi, the programmes executive director, told The Post in a telephone interview from Bangalore.

While defending the foreign assistance package for 2008, Tobias had labelled India a transforming country, in contrast with countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, which were labelled developing countries. Huge sums have been devoted to administration priorities areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan and Afghanistan together will receive more than 85% of the $2.2 billion aid budget for 12 countries in South and Central Asia. Iraqs aid was boosted five-fold for 2008. Tobias had previously overhauled US assistance to combat AIDS worldwide, and Rice wanted him to bring the same sensibility to remaking the full aid budget.

Under Tobiass plan, foreign aid should meet corporate standards for measuring inputs, outputs and efficiency.