A Paris-based group of industrialized countries has praised President Bush's pledge to increase U.S. foreign aid. But it suggests Washington give even more money and improve effectiveness of its assistance to the world's poorest countries.
The so-called peer review by the OECD is the first conducted of U.S. foreign aid in four years. The review gives the Bush administration high marks for its plan to increase U.S. foreign aid from nearly $11 billion a year to about $16 billion, by 2006.
Currently, U.S. aid accounts for about one fifth of total foreign assistance by the 23 nations in the OECD group.
Hunter McGill heads the OECD group which reviews the aid programs of member nations. "Don't undervalue the importance of the commitment by President Bush to increase the value of development cooperation efforts, official development aid, by 50 percent over the next four years. That's a very important commitment. And one which the committee hoped would receive legislative approval, and be enacted as quickly as possible," he said.
But even with the increase, the United States remains at the bottom of the OECD donors list, in terms of the percentage of its economic output devoted to foreign aid.
The OECD says the United States gives about one-tenth of one percent of its national income to poor countries. By contrast, European Union countries on average give about three times as much of their national incomes.
Both figures are far lower than the United Nations target of seven tenths of a percent. These figures do not include millions of dollars in aid coming from foundations and other private groups.
In its review of U.S. aid, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development also urges the United States to reduced so-called "tied aid," which stipulates recipients must use part of the money to buy American products. It says Washington should also reduce its aid bureaucracy, and make the delivery of foreign assistance more efficient.
The OECD group also says the U.S. Agency for International Development should conduct public awareness campaigns to teach Americans about the importance of helping the poorest nations.
The U.S. aid agency's representative at the OECD, Kelly Kammerer, says he has no serious disagreements with the report. But he notes that currently, the agency is not authorized to spend money to promote its work to the American people.