Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Bush Reneges on Promises to Help the World's Poor

For the next week, I'll be celebrating the holidays with my family. In lieu of my musings, Heart, Soul & Humor will feature provocative stories from many sources. Enjoy!

Also, please see my post of Dec 21 to contribute to alleviating world hunger.
As the Bush administration prepares to request $100 billion to spend in Iraq in 2005; to justify $2 trillion for investment bankers and ilk for a questionable redo of social security; to hold what may be the most expensive and lavish Presidential inauguration in history; to continue to insist that $2 million be set aside for a Presidential yacht..........they renege on promises to contribute $100 million to aid the world's poorest and hungriest. (This situation is another fine example of Bush's self-proclaimed Christian priorities in action.)

The following are excerpts from a New York Times story today,
"U.S. Cutting Food Aid Aimed at Self-Sufficiency" By Elizabeth Becker.

With the budget deficit growing and President Bush promising to reduce spending, the administration has told representatives of several charities that it was unable to honor some earlier promises and would have money to pay for food only in emergency crises like that in Darfur, in western Sudan. The cutbacks, estimated by some charities at up to $100 million, come at a time when the number of hungry in the world is rising for the first time in years and all food programs are being stretched.

As a result, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services and other charities have suspended or eliminated programs that were intended to help the poor feed themselves through improvements in farming, education and health.

"We have between five and seven million people who have been affected by these cuts," said Lisa Kuennen, a food aid expert at Catholic Relief Services. "We had approval for all of these programs, often a year in advance. We hired staff, signed agreements with governments and with local partners, and now we have had to delay everything."

Ms. Kuennen said Catholic Relief Services had to cut back programs in Indonesia, Malawi and Madagascar, among other countries.

Officials of several charities, some Republican members of Congress and some administration officials say the food aid budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 was at least $600 million less than what charities and aid agencies would need to carry out current programs.

Ellen Levinson, head of the Food Aid Coalition, said the best estimate for the amount of food that was not delivered in November and December was "at least $100 million".....

One administration official involved in food aid voiced concern that putting such a high priority on emergency help might be short-sighted. The best way to avoid future famines is to help poor countries become self-sufficient with cash and food aid now, said the official, who asked not to be identified because of the continuing debate on the issue. "The fact is, the development programs are being shortchanged, and I'm not sure the administration is going to make up the money," the official said....

Several Republican and Democratic members of Congress are joining with food aid advocates to convince the administration that food aid should not be cut.

Last month, Representative Jo Ann Emerson, Republican of Missouri, led an effort with more than 30 other legislators that persuaded the administration to release 200,000 tons of grain from a trust fund for emergency food aid to Sudan.

Now she is lobbying the administration to finance foreign food aid programs fully and, if possible, increase the money. "I'm not saying the president is opposed to this, but we haven't had any indication what will happen," said Ms. Emerson, who emphasized that hers was a bipartisan effort.

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