- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

President Bush travels to a foreign donors' summit in Monterrey, Mexico, with a pledge of additional U.S. aid and a growing recognition of a link between poverty and terrorism.

"The message we are bringing to Monterrey is the need to focus on what works, not just the amount of money," said Andrew Natsios, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Foreign aid works best "where there's a reform process going on, where there is political will," Mr. Natsios said in an interview.

Last week, Mr. Bush boosted U.S. international assistance by $5 billion over three years for countries that fight corruption, adopt open markets and improve health and education.

"The American people know there is a direct relationship between terrorism and failed states," said Patrick Cronin, assistant administrator of USAID.

The 189 countries attending the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey are to consider a U.N. call to double the world's foreign aid from $50 billion a year and to increase each nation's share to 0.7 percent of gross domestic product.

Although the United States is the largest aid donor, it currently gives but 0.1 percent of GDP.

"That's the debate," said a State Department official speaking on the condition of anonymity. "We say that throwing money at [poverty] is not going to solve the problem."

Mr. Bush agreed to attend the summit portion of the conference along with 50 other heads of state and government, in part at the request of Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Once the decision was made, senior Bush administration officials in a closely held process decided to increase total foreign aid.

Mr. Bush also plans to press the conference to adopt a call he made in June for international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to give out 50 percent of their aid in the form of grants rather than low-interest loans.

"It's time to 'stop the debt' for the poorest countries, especially for such urgent priorities as basic education, health care, and clean water that do not generate the revenues necessary to service loans," Mr. Bush said in a White House statement Thursday.

European and other donors who contribute to the IFIs along with the United States oppose the move, fearing that grants are less likely to fund productive projects and that without repayment the IFIs won't have fresh funds to give out.

Mr. Natsios, a former head of the large non-governmental aid group WorldVision, said that many countries have graduated through their use of aid into rapidly growing economies due to sound policies.

Mr. Natsios recalled traveling to Greece as a child to visit his grandfather's native village, where people earned only $200 per year.

"I went back in 1994 to my grandfather's village and the roads are paved, people drive BMWs, there are restaurants and they export their agricultural produce so the village is rich."

Greece was among the Western European nations devastated by World War II that received U.S. foreign aid under the Marshall Plan, which aimed to stop the spread of communism.

Aid advocates have argued that foreign assistance can similarly help stop the spread of terrorism, Islamic militancy and other anti-Western creeds.

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