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The Boston Globe



US foreign aid is stymied by Cold War-era regulations

The United States is the world’s largest donor nation. Foreign aid comprises about 1 percent of the federal budget, or $32 billion, money that often gets great returns in promoting political stability, opportunities to trade with foreign countries, and human rights. But the law that governs such aid was passed in 1961, at the height of the Cold War. Although it has been tweaked over the years, it is seriously outdated and in need of a complete overhaul.

For instance, the law still requires the president to pledge to Congress that certain aid recipients are not “controlled by the international Communist conspiracy.” The foreign aid infrastructure the law set up decades ago was more focused on defeating the Soviet Union than bringing nations out of poverty. It also allows for earmarks that sometimes do more to promote individual US industries than serve the needs of overseas beneficiaries.

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