US Senators want 2.5 billion for Latin America

US Senators want 2.5 billion for Latin America

A new, bipartisan plan unveiled Thursday in Congress marks an innovative approach to aid for Latin America. U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Mel Martinez (R-FL), along with Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Dan Burton (R-IN) today announced the introduction of the Social Investment and Economic Development Act for the Americas – a plan that goes beyond traditional assistance to foreign countries by encouraging financial commitments from the private sector and recipient nations. The plan has the support of the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

Currently, 40 percent of the population in Latin America lives below the poverty line. The 10 year, $2.5 billion proposal introduced today focuses on the reduction of poverty, expansion of the middle class, and investment in key development areas, such as education, healthcare, and housing in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“In the age of globalization, we are inextricably linked to the rest of the world – and to no people are we more closely connected than to our neighbors in Latin America,” said Senator Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance. “Their successes are our successes, just as their social problems cause instability in our communities too. A partnership between our nations that spans the public and private sectors and attacks the roots of poverty is a new approach whose time has come.”

“We have seen the benefits of our increased partnerships with countries in the region. This legislation will allow us to build on our successes and achieve more in the future,” said Senator Martinez, former member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and current member of Senate Armed Services Committee. “This is a bipartisan effort that will fund programs to improve education, reduce poverty, promote better healthcare, and provide improved housing in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

"Our Social Investment and Economic Development Fund legislation will allow the United States to step up as a real partner with our neighbors to the south,” said Rep. Engel, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. “Once and for all, we will be able to help our friends in the hemisphere to curb poverty and reduce longtime inequalities."

“The program I believe is absolutely essential to help the people in Latin America and the Caribbean economically; because of that, we hope it will create more stability in the region,” said Rep. Burton, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

Overview of legislation

Provides $2.5 billion over ten years split evenly between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Maximizes U.S. dollars by dividing the work evenly between two institutions with different sets of expertise:

USAID will focus on basic development issues such as education, housing, and healthcare; and

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) will concentrate on economic development issues such as creating a strong investment climate, educating the workforce, microfinance, and leveraging remittances for development.  

Works to reduce the exclusion of marginalized populations, including indigenous groups, women, rural and urban poor, people of African descent, and people with disabilities.

Creates a bipartisan Advisory Committee of regional and technical experts to monitor projects.

Implements rigorous evaluation and oversight through impact assessment to make sure taxpayer money is well spent.

Limits overhead/administrative costs to ensure most effective use of US taxpayer’s dollars.

Innovative Approach

Multiplies the impact of U.S. investment through the creation of a matching fund for the private sector and member countries of Inter-American Development Bank.

Compliments the work of the Millennium Challenge Corporation by working with countries to improve their indicators in the area of investing in people.

Supports the national interests and security interests of the United States by reducing  instability in the region, improving economies, and creating a greater market for U.S. goods.

Requires the recipient country to take responsibility for their projects through a 10 percent contribution.

Senate co-sponsors: Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE), Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN), Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Ken Salazar (D-CO), John Kerry (D-MA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Norm Coleman (R-MN).

House co-sponsors: Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA), Ranking Members Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Mike Honda (D-CA), Joe Baca (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Donna Christensen (D-VI), Albio Sires (D-NJ), William Delahunt (D-MA).

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