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US Gives Less Foreign Aid than Americans Think


A Pakistani police officer stands guard as children make their way to school in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday. Pakistani authorities closed schools last week, in the country's largest province, Punjab, following warnings of possible militant attacks. The U.S. will give Pakistan over $800 million in foreign aid in 2016. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

A Pakistani police officer stands guard as children make their way to school in Lahore, Pakistan, Monday. Pakistani authorities closed schools last week, in the country's largest province, Punjab, following warnings of possible militant attacks. The U.S. will give Pakistan over $800 million in foreign aid in 2016. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)


The United States will spend $37.9 billion on foreign aid in 2016.

That is about $2 billion more than 2014. But it still amounts to less than 1 percent of the U.S. government’s $4 trillion budget.

Most Americans believe the percentage is far greater.

The Kaiser Family Foundation last year asked 1,500 Americans what portion of the federal budget goes to foreign aid. The average answer was 25 percent, Kaiser said.

That is 25 times the correct percentage.

Which nation gets the most aid?

A new breakdown from the State Department shows the top 15:

  1. Israel, $3.1 billion
  2. Afghanistan, $1.51 billion
  3. Egypt, $1.45 billion
  4. Jordan, $1 billion
  5. Pakistan, $803 million
  6. Nigeria, $607 million

Also on the top 15 list are Tanzania, Ukraine, Uganda and the West Bank and Gaza. Others include Ethiopia, South Africa, Iraq, South Sudan and Somalia.

You can see how much the United States provides in foreign aid to countries and territories at this U.S. State Department website.

Foreign aid is not a big issue in the 2016 presidential race. The top issues are terrorism, immigration and how to improve the U.S. economy.

But members of Congress often debate whether foreign aid is effective. They also debate whether the foreign aid budget is divided up in a smart and fair way.

The Congressional Research Service says it is hard to tell.

“In most cases, the success or failure of U.S. foreign aid programs is not entirely clear, in part, because historically most aid programs have not been evaluated,” the research service says.

The United States first offered foreign aid after World War II, helping to rebuild Europe. The programs have continued ever since.

Still, the Kaiser Family Foundation said Americans remain doubtful about foreign aid.

Kaiser said nearly half believe the United States spends more than its fair share on international health problems. As an example, Kaiser cites the Ebola crisis in Western Africa during 2014 and 2015.

Hillary Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate, strongly supported foreign aid as U.S. Secretary of State and continues to do so.

“The 1 percent of our budget we spend on all diplomacy and development is not what is driving our deficit,” Clinton said.

Democratic opponent Bernie Sanders has not made campaign statements on foreign aid. But as a senator, he tried – unsuccessfully – to cut funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He said he wanted the money for the IMF to go to foreign aid for poor nations.

On the Republican side, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said a lot of foreign aid has been wasted. But if spent effectively, he said, foreign aid can advance U.S. foreign policy goals.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump has not spoken in detail about foreign aid. But Trump said he would send U.S. funding to create a safe area for Syrians displaced by the civil war.

He sees that as an alternative to accepting more Syrian refugees in the United States.

“I would help them economically, even though we owe $19 trillion,” Trump said, referring to the current U.S. debt.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another Republican presidential candidate, said the United States must “stop sending foreign aid to nations that hate us.”

I'm Mario Ritter.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

billion – n. the number 1,000,000,000 : one thousand million

trillionn. the number 1,000,000,000,000 : one thousand billion

effectiveadj. producing a result that is wanted : having an intended effect

afford v. to be able to pay for something

advancev. to move forward

displacev. to take the job or position of (someone or something

alternativen. something that can be chosen instead of something else

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