Director of US foreign assistance meets with ministers
CAIRO: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) won’t be contributing to Egypt’s nuclear plans for the time being, American and Egyptian officials have announced.
In a meeting between Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abu El-Naga and Ambassador Randall L. Tobias, director of US Foreign Assistance and USAID administrator, the two discussed the restructuring of American aid to the country among other issues.
“There has been a change in Egyptian priorities in the past 30 years, says Abu El-Naga, explaining that the USAID projects have changed accordingly.
While aid has focused in previous years on sectors like housing, infrastructure and electricity, Abu El-Naga says health, education, employment and other development related goals are now in focus.
This year will see a number of projects carried out under the aid program with a total cost of $414.4 million.
The government of Egypt sets its priorities . and we accommodate to these priorities, said Francis Ricciardone, the American ambassador to Egypt, who also attended the meeting on Sunday.
He stressed his government s welcoming approach to Egypt s prospective nuclear program. But due to the relatively recent announcement, the two governments have yet to work out the details of the program to include it in American aid to Egypt. Deputy Secretary General of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) Gamal Mubarak had said last September, in what is described by some analysts as a publicity stunt, that the government would start a nuclear program as a source of alternative energy.
This project [nuclear plans] isn t included in the general frame of the aid agreements, says Wahid Abdel Magead, analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. Whether this would be subject to change or not is yet to be known, he adds.
For the time being, aid will focus on areas such as health, education, economic development, government decentralization and civil society participation. After the brief press conference, Tobias and Abu El-Naga convened with the ministers of health, education and housing to discuss the plans and projects for this year s aid.
Increasing expenditure in one sector as opposed to others won t lead to significant change in the effectiveness of the [American] aid, adds Abdel Magead.
Lack of transparency, he explains, has limited the benefits that could be reaped from this aid program. American preconditions, high salaries for American experts enlisted in the aid projects and the small circle of connected businessmen who work with the aid program are also reasons why these projects have limited effect, he adds.
Thus, redirecting the aid to development goals as opposed to infrastructure would further decrease the benefits the public could reap from American aid. The money will be directed to serve the interests of [certain] businessmen, he said.