US Embassy #Egypt: $30 Billion USAID Assistance to Egypt in 30 Years

But annual average in economic and military foreign assistance since 1979 is $2 billion

The US Embassy in Cairo has recently released a statement by US Ambassador Margaret Scobey with a brief summary of US Government assistance to Egypt in the last 30 years. Apparently, in 30 years of assistance to Egypt, we have given nearly $30 billion in development contribution.  Before you huff and puff over that figure, and to put that number is perspective, read how much of your tax dollars go to international affairs and foreign aid here.

The US Embassy in Cairo says that the “$30 billion has been an investment in the people of Egypt and has generated far more than its face value in assisting Egyptians to build their own capacity and develop their own resources.”  The statement lists the following programs:

  • Expanded access to clean drinking water and sanitation to more than 20 million Egyptians where no such service was previously available.
  • Contributed nearly $1 billion for public health resulting in significant extension of the lifespan of Egyptians and dramatic decreases in infant and child mortality.  In 1975, about 130 out of every 1000 infants died after childbirth; the number now is about 25 – a more than 500% improvement.
  • Built more than 2,000 schools and stocked 39,000 school libraries.
  • Rehabilitated and refurbished important antiquity sites, such as Luxor’s West Bank and the Bab Zweila in Cairo, helping to preserve Egypt’s great heritage for generations to come and to sustain Egypt’s tourism.                                                                                        
  • Since 2005, sent more than 2,200 Egyptians to the United States for university degrees and training programs.  Over the past 30 years we have also awarded 3000 Fulbright scholarships along with 2300 high school and university level scholarships through other programs.
  • Invested $1.8 billion in 13 electric power sector projects accounting directly and indirectly for roughly one third of total present capacity.
  • From 1982 to 1995, USAID spent USD 140 million to rectify original design flaws and keep the Aswan Dam generating power at its full capacity.
  • Invested billions of dollars in technical and financial assistance to modernize Egypt’s economy to create new jobs in fields like high-technology and manufacturing.  This has directly contributed to the World Bank naming Egypt one of the top ten Doing Business locations in the world four out of the last five years.
  • Helped the poorest Egyptians improve their livelihoods by supporting well over a million Egyptians with the extension of 8.3 million micro-credit loans valued at about USD 2.5 billion.

Ambassador Scobey’s statement also notes that “these projects were completed with the strictest standards of transparency and accountability of any assistance program in the world” and points out that  “the United States has always included in its assistance programs funding to strengthen and expand Egypt’s civil society” and that “in the Mubarak era, this assistance was often labeled “interference,” and opposed by a government uncomfortable with hearing the voices of its own people.”

Actually according to the figures from the CRS, economic assistance to Egypt since 1979 amounts to $30.8 billion.  But just as eye-popping, military assistance combined with international military education training for Egypt since 1979 amounts to nearly $40 billion.
Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East with a population estimated at 80 million people.  Its reported government budget deficit is equivalent to 8.1 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009/10 fiscal year.

The United States has provided Egypt with an annual average of some $2 billion in economic and military foreign assistance since 1979. For FY2012, the Obama Administration has requested  $1.551 billion in total aid to Egypt following more or less the same amount requested in the last three fiscal years.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Given that Egypt has been the second largest recipient of US foreign aid since 1979 (second only to Israel), one has to wonder how this aid translates to perception among regular people in the streets of Egypt.

Do the Egyptians know that the US built 2,000 schools and stocked 39,000 school libraries in their country?  Or that the US extended 8.3 million micro-credit loans or helped the Aswan dam?

It’s hard to say what exactly Egyptians know/don’t know about US development assistance in their country, but no doubt, just about everyone recognized the assistance and support the USG provided Hosni Mubarak for the last 30 years.

A few things to think about: 

  • According to the PEW Global Attitudes Project, America’s favorability rating in Egypt dropped from 27% to 17% – the lowest percentage observed in any of the Pew Global Attitudes surveys conducted in that country since 2006.  A double-digit decline. In 2009, 27% of Egyptians had a favorable opinion, but this year only 17% hold this view, tying Egypt with Turkey (17%) and Pakistan (17%) for the lowest U.S. favorability rating in the survey.
  • Support for terrorism remains low among the Muslim publics surveyed. Many fewer Muslims in 2010 than in the middle of the past decade say that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilians are justified to defend Islam from its enemies. However, the new poll does show a modest increase over the past year in support for suicide bombing being often or sometimes justifiable, with a rise in Egypt from 15% to 20% and in Jordan from 12% to 20%. Still, these are below the levels of support observed mid-decade.
  • In Jan 2011, a 59%-majority of Muslims in Egypt believed that democracy was preferable to any other kind of government. About one-in-five (22%), however, said that in some circumstances, a non-democratic government could be preferable, and another 16% said it did not matter what kind of government is in place for a person in their situation.

So — about that huff and puff party ….

On a related note, the US Embassy in Egypt sent out a warden message to alert U.S. citizens in Cairo that groups in Egypt have announced plans to hold a demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy on Thursday April 21 at mid-day.

That group turned out to be  about 400 protesters according to Reuters.  Most of the protesters said they belonged to the militant al-Gama’a al-Islamiya group.  The report says the protesters gathered near the heavily fortified U.S. embassy in downtown Cairo to demand freedom for their spiritual leader Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.  Rahman was jailed in 1995 and is serving a life sentence in the United States for plotting to attack the United Nations headquarters and other New York City landmarks.

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