On Monday United States’ (U.S) President Donald Trump, proposed a Budget that will cut the approximate US$50B State Department and foreign aid spending by 37 percent. This proposed reduction comes along with a proposal to increase the approximately US$500B military spending by US$54B. Undoubtedly reduction in foreign aid would have an impact on the developmental aid-financial, technical and otherwise- the U.S extends to governments and non-government organisations. Those who could be affected are wont to speculate if such a proposal is passed by the U.S Congress and approved by the President what could be the likely impact on their way of life.
What is known thus far is that the proposed cut has been met with resistance by both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said such a proposal would be “dead on arrival.” While this portends well that reliant countries have U.S lawmakers who will rather not see this happen, it is reasonable to speculate for small societies such as ours, should such happen what it may mean for us.
Guyana enjoys positive relations with the U.S and has been the beneficiary of much support in improving our system of governance, crime fighting with the establishment of a Drug Enforcement Agency office here, and the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), to name immediate direct benefits. Some indirect benefits have come through international organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme and World Health Organisation that receive funding and other support from the U.S.
There can be no denying that a cut in foreign spending could adversely impact standard of living, longevity, crime fighting, family planning, counteracting diseases, governance, and human rights. In the midst of uncertainty people would usually look to their leaders for direction or assurance. Last November with the victory of Trump at the polls, President David Granger assured the nation cordial relations will continue between the two countries. U.S Ambassador Perry Halloway also echoed similar sentiment. Notwithstanding President Trump’s “America First Policy” and principal focus “on public safety and national security” the inter-connectivity of the world lends assurance where trade, commerce, and other areas of interest intersect, governments and people would seek avenues to unite on mutual interest and respect.
Outside of scepticism that increased military spending could mean war, where many are already fatigued by the horrors it has wreaked to lives and societies, they are also global protests against programmes and policies that could threaten stability-political, social, economic and cultural. There can be no denying the world is experience some flux/resistance in both directions.
As forces pull to create a new world order driven by protectionism, others are pushing against it. It is the meeting of the two forces, ultimately borne out of recognition that the survival and development of one is hinged on the success of the other that hopefully would create the space of working together.
Global aid by the U.S has historically been informed by the country’s national interest and its values which drive its foreign policy. Though it is not Guyana’s place to say where the U.S’ priorities ought to be placed based on the regions, the Caribbean still has avenue of ensuring it can either avert or cushion the potential impact should the cut materialised.
In December 2016 the U.S Congress, with bipartisan support of Republican and Democratic lawmakers, passed Bill (HR 4939) which was signed into law by President Barrack Obama that portends possibilities for the Caribbean. Though this law attached no direct financial support it “declares that it is U.S. policy to increase engagement with the governments of the Caribbean region, including the private sector, and with civil society in both the United States and the Caribbean.”
The Law further submits that, “[t]he Department of State shall submit to Congress a multi-year strategy for U.S. engagement to support the efforts of interested nations in the Caribbean region,” through vehicles and partnership such as the USAID, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, Educational and Cultural Affairs, active citizens’ partnership, strengthen the rule of law, energy security, and diversifying our economies. With this window of opportunity the Caribbean is presented no effort should be spared to make full use of it.