October 25, 1999

October 25, 1999 | News Releases on Foreign Aid and Development

Money for Nothing?:  New Study Shows Foreign Aid Wins Few Friends at the U.N.

 WASHINGTON, OCT. 25, 1999-President Clinton vetoed a $12.7 billion foreign-aid bill on Oct. 18 because it would cut nearly $2 billion from the amount he requested. The White House argues that foreign assistance helps "in advancing American interests and values," but if that's so, how come 75 percent of countries receiving U.S. aid vote against the United States a majority of the time at the United Nations?

In a new study examining votes cast during the 1998 U.N. session, The Heritage Foundation finds that foreign aid wins little support for the U.S. point of view at the world body. On average, says Heritage international affairs specialist Brett Schaefer, recipients of U.S. aid voted with the United States only 43 percent of the time in 1998. By contrast, countries that receive no U.S. aid voted with the United States 49 percent of the time.

Indeed, an analysis of the U.N. voting records of U.S. aid recipients over the past five years reveals "no significant relationship between foreign aid and voting tendencies," Schaefer says. Countries receiving U.S. aid during that period voted with the United States an average of 44 percent of the time, while countries that did not receive U.S. aid voted with the United States 56 percent of the time.

The percentage of "anti-U.S." votes is even higher among many of the top 10 recipients of U.S. foreign aid. For example, India received more than $143 million in U.S. aid in 1998 but voted 81 percent of the time against the United States. Jordan, which pocketed more than $192 million in 1998 -- and which would receive part of the money President Clinton wants restored to the 2000 foreign-aid bill -- voted against the United States 72 percent of the time. Egypt, the second largest U.S. foreign aid recipient at $2.1 billion, voted against the United States 68 percent of the time.

The U.N. voting record of many U.S. foreign-aid recipients "casts serious doubt on the claims from the administration and proponents of foreign aid that such foreign aid spending is vital to the national interests of the United States," Schaefer writes.

Even as he argues for higher foreign aid, President Clinton has also requested that Congress forgive the debt that 36 poor countries owe to the United States -- an amount totaling $5.7 billion. But as Schaefer and Heritage analyst Denise Froning explain in another study, this proposal doesn't go far enough. The United States should link debt forgiveness to an official ban on all future loans from multilateral lending agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Congress should also encourage these countries to adopt free-market economic reforms that will free them from dependence on foreign credit, they say.

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