It's not aid, it's an investment


To the editor:

As New York City reaches an astounding 20 percent unemployment rate due to the economic and precautionary effects stemming from COVID-19, it is more imperative than ever that U.S. job creation becomes a focal point for our political leaders.

While political leaders scramble to find and fund new services to mitigate this job loss, the answer may be far simpler than many think: increased foreign aid. Now understandably, it may be perplexing how increased foreign aid could help mitigate extreme economic loss in the United States as, after all, foreign aid does mean the distribution of U.S. money to foreign countries.

Historically, the United States has seen robust returns when providing aid to foreign countries. One of the first examples of this connection can be observed through the Marshall Plan following World War II. The Marshall Plan’s goal was to help rebuild the European Union following years of destruction, authoritarianism and isolation.

The United States provided $12.7 billion in aid to the European Union, and as of 2018, receives $318 billion in annual U.S. exports. More recently, beginning in the 1960s, the United States provided Mexico with $1.7 billion in aid, and again as of 2018, the United States receives $265 billion in annual U.S. exports.

What these numbers truly illustrate is that when the United States provides struggling countries with foreign aid to help stimulate their economy, this amount of money is later returned to the United States, but in exponentially higher sums. Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said it best: “We need to stop viewing it as aid. It’s an investment.”

However, despite this direct relationship, the United States only gives 0.19 percent of its annual gross national income, or GNI. When compared to other countries, the United States falls far behind its overseas counterparts, countries like — but not limited to — Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Denmark giving more than 0.72 percent of their annual GNI.

When aiming for a future of economic stability in New York City and the greater New York region, it is of vital importance that we, as citizens, reject the narrative that foreign aid means taking money away from American citizens. Numerous pieces of literature and evidence — many of which can be found on The Borgen Project’s website — point to the opposite: Increased foreign aid actually creates more U.S. jobs and U.S. economic revenue than many other commonly accepted solutions to economic loss.

Now, more than ever, as New York City and the rest of the United States face economic hardship, it is imperative that we urge our congress people — specifically U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, as well as who will likely be our future congressman, Jamaal Bowman, to serve the best interests of their constituents and vote to protect and increase the international affairs budget.

Isabela Watson

The author represents The Borgen Project, the Seattle-based advocacy group that fights what it describes as “extreme poverty.”

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Isabela Watson,