In the meantime, we’ve created three versions of an FAQ on the same topic for you to consider. Now, we’re asking for your participation. Please take time to experience the following 3 examples of an FAQ. Then, let us know in the comments or on Twitter what you think. Which did you find most effective, and why? What didn’t you like, and why? Did you try out all three? Did you stay with them for the duration? We want to know!
1. Watch the video
In a video made using Xtranormal, two characters debate.
2. Listen to the podcast
Din Clarke of Studio 20 tells you the whole story in less than two minutes.
3. Read the conversation
This conversation can answer your questions and may include some of your comments, too.
FAQ on U.S. Aid to Egypt: Where Does The Money Go–And Is It Worth It?
The United States has provided aid to Egypt since 1979, averaging just over $2 billion per year. They receive more US foreign aid than any other country, besides Israel. But now that “USA” has popped up on tear gas canisters in Tahrir Square, questions are surfacing about the U.S.’s aid to Egypt. Here, we break down where the money goes, how it’s spent, and whether or not it actually helps the people of Egypt.
I heard we give money to Egypt, but I’ve been so wrapped up in The Daily, I don’t know anything about it.
Well, what do you want to know?
I don’t know…give me the big picture.
Well, in the early 60s, the government started an agency called USAID that distributes money to developing countries. They divide it up into military and non-military aid, and give it out to help promote democracy, humanitarian development–advance our policy goals. In Sub-Saharan Africa, our goal is to build stable governments. They call it “the overall goal of transformational diplomacy.”
So when did we start giving money to Egypt?
1979. It started after Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty at Camp David.
We weren’t part of the Egyptian-Israeli war.
I know, but we moderated the deal–transformational diplomacy! The idea is that we can use that money to keep them from smuggling weapons, making sure the state police don’t torture people. Keep the peace in the Middle East.
Soo how much do we give them?
It’s been about $2 billion a year since then. $1.3 billion is for military assistance.
That’s a lot of money.
Yeah, but USAID–including money to Egypt–is something like less than one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget. But it is a lot of money–more than we give any other country, except for Israel.
I’m confused–what exactly do we get out of this?
Well, Egypt buys weapons that were made in the states—F-4 jet aircraft, F-16 jet fighters, armoured personnel carriers, Apache helicopters, antiaircraft missile batteries, aerial surveillance aircraft. So the defense contractors like that, and it boosts our economy a bit. Plus, our navy ships get expedited processing through the Suez Canal, and…
That’s just a body of water.
I know, but it’s like EZ Pass on toll roads. If you use it enough, you want to get through quickly and not waste your gas.
I live in Manhattan…I don’t have a car.
Are you going to let me finish?
Anyway, as I was saying…we get to go through the Suez Canal faster, and we get access to Egyptian air space. So the government thinks this helps advance our foreign policy goals, but the problem is that no one’s actually measured whether or not the program works
When I didn’t measure results at my job, I got fired.
Exactly! Like, for example, Egypt can buy U.S. weapons on credit...with the money we gave them. So starting in 2006, they made agreements for services over $2 billion, but some of that isn’t due in full until 2011. Until they pay, the money we gave them is used for…well, we don’t really know.
So we don’t know exactly whether the money we give them helps the U.S?
Right- the military money, anyway.
And is that the only problem?
Not quite. The other problem is that the money gives us no say in Egypt’s stance on human rights. Like, when Congress tried to withhold $100 million unless Mubarak stopped smuggling weapons into Gaza and torturing people, Mubarak got so angry that Condoleeza Rice pulled the bill. And now, Robert Gates said the Obama administration is taking the same stance–military aid comes with no conditions.
OK, so military aid sounds like it blows.
Well, that’s a little pre-emptive…
What about non-military aid? Didn’t you say part of the money we give them is for non-military services?
Yeah, that’s called economic aid. It’s usually in the hundreds of millions each year. Although it’s been declining since 1998.
So does non-military aid benefit the people?
It’s supposed to, but it’s not really working. We spent $57 million and four years to increase jobs and incomes for rural households in Egypt. But that failed. And then we spent $151 million to modernize Egypt’s financial sector, but we couldn’t measure the results of project.
And then, in 2009, the Obama administration cut economic aid to $2.60 per capita. That number was already low; in 2007, economic aid was $6 per capita. To put that in perspective, we spent $40.80 per capita in Jordan in 2007. But Jordan’s per capita income was already 170 percent higher than Egypt’s.
It just didn’t add up. And the Egyptian people need jobs. Which is part of the reason they’re protesting.
Why haven’t human rights NGOs in Egypt done something about it? You know, groups that promote democracy and stuff?
Mubarak’s regime shut most of them down.
Soo why don’t we just give pro-dem NGOs money to open up again?
The U.S. isn’t allowed to do that. Our relationship with Egypt was so messed up after the Bush regime, that President Obama promised we’d only give economic aid to NGOs that Mubarak approves of. So we cut funding for pro-democracy NGOs in half.
And since his regime is so corrupt, he pulled the plug on the pro-democracy organizations that seemed too aggressive.
It’s all messed up. Even the government thinks it’s time to reconsider Egypt’s aid package.
If I were an Egyptian citizen, I wouldn’t be too happy.