Los Angeles Times
21 March 2002
The World; U.S., Europe to Tout Pledges of Development Aid
Mexico: Bush and other leaders say they want to boost grants
to poor nations by $12 billion a year by 2006.
MONTERREY, Mexico - Carrying a sackful of aid promises, President
Bush arrives here today for a global development conference
that, in sharp contrast to many past meetings with lofty goals,
may actually accomplish something.
The United States and European nations will use the U.N. Conference
on Financing for Development to tout pledges to raise annual
aid to poor nations by a combined $12 billion by 2006.
Bush will also unveil a new program to promote private investment
and jobs in rural Mexico as a way to discourage illegal immigration,
U.S. and Mexican officials said Wednesday.
The proposed U.S. and European Union aid increases are a response
to globalization foes who say the benefits of free trade haven't
filtered down to the poor. The increases would constitute
a reversal after a generation of shrinking U.S. aid budgets.
Bush wants to gradually boost aid to poor nations from $10
billion a year now to $15 billion yearly by 2006; Congress
must approve any increase. The EU announced its commitment
to add $7 billion to its annual aid program at a summit in
Barcelona, Spain, last weekend.
The timing of the proposed aid increases--before a conference
whose theme is how to lift developing nations out of poverty--is
no coincidence, Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda said.
"They are directly linked to the celebration of the summit
in Monterrey," he said.
Nearly 60 world leaders are expected at the meeting. Castaneda
attributed the high turnout to nations' eagerness to ratify
what is being called the "Monterrey Consensus,"
that wealthy countries must do more to help the poor.
Cuban President Fidel Castro will also attend the conference,
but he and Bush will not meet, the White House said. Castro
will arrive this morning and leave tonight. Bush arrives this
afternoon and will stay through Saturday morning, when he
leaves for Lima, the Peruvian capital.
The U.S.-Mexico rural assistance program, dubbed Partnership
for Prosperity, unites the public and private sectors in developing
projects to help regions of Mexico that haven't benefited
from the North American Free Trade Agreement, officials said.
Asked about the program, National Security Advisor Condoleezza
Rice said it is aimed at smoothing out NAFTA's "uneven"
"NAFTA created a tremendous economic boom . . . mostly
along the border states," she said. "And one of
[Mexican] President [Vicente] Fox's concerns has been to take
that prosperity and transfer it to the center of the country
and to the south."
At a news conference here Wednesday, U.S. Treasury Secretary
Paul H. O'Neill cautioned that the Bush administration wants
to attach some strings to its proposed boost in aid to poor
To keep the aid spigot open, the United States wants to be
shown concrete results in terms of higher living standards
and incomes, O'Neill said.
In typically blunt fashion, O'Neill expressed some reservations
that government grants are the best way to help the world's
"The real economic development will come from [investment]
capital," he said. "We're not going to do it with
O'Neill and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell are heading
an effort to devise benchmarks to prove the effectiveness
of poverty aid.
Bush and Fox will hold talks Friday that Mexico hopes will
result in U.S. aid for border infrastructure and other programs.
Officials of both countries were reticent Wednesday about
what specific help Mexico might receive.
Asked at a White House briefing Wednesday about criticism
that Washington isn't providing enough foreign aid, Rice argued
that in addition to grants, U.S. assistance comes in the form
of military and security guarantees.
"I say to people that the United States provides for
the world a lot that others do not, including security,"
she said. "What we're doing to increase stability and
security around the world right now is really quite remarkable."
At a news briefing here Wednesday, Harvard economics professor
Jeffrey Sachs made the case that improving health care in
poor countries plagued by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria is
the first step to fostering economic development.
Sachs discussed a recent study that he directed showing that
AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are blocking chances of economic
growth in many developing countries.
Rich countries should contribute one penny for each $10 of
economic output, an investment that he said would save 8 million
lives a year and generate a 600% return in terms of productivity.
"Monterrey can be a turning point in this division between
rich and poor," he said. "There is nothing more
important in economic development than helping the poor stay
alive to become members of productive society."
One fund set up last April to deliver health care is the Fund to Fight
AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which commissioned Sachs'
study. Directed by officials at the United Nations' World
Health Organization, the fund has raised nearly $2 billion
in less than a year--including $100 million from the Bill
& Melinda Gates Foundation.
The WHO's Andrew Cassels said the fund has gone from "a
standing start to disbursing $700 million" in aid to
as many as 50 countries. Its goal is to disburse 10 times
that much in five years.
"We hope people come out of Monterrey thinking that health
care isn't just important in its own right," he said,
"but that it's a key strategy in building a sound economy."
Chris Kraul, Edwin Chen, Times staff writers, Asia Pulse