The Christian Science Monitor on Monday examined how the Obama administration is "hinting that the economic downturn means the president is unlikely to reach his goal of doubling foreign aid by the end of his four-year term." Doubling foreign aid to $50 billion annually by 2012 and a pledge to reform the way the U.S. works with the rest of the world were key elements of Obama's presidential campaign, the Monitor reports. The situation is raising concerns about the possible effects on development and global health efforts, as well as the perception of the U.S. oversees, according to the Monitor. The U.S. in recent years has increased funding for efforts to address HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases, but some "worry that the upward trend may now be reversed," the Monitor reports.

Some development experts point out that President Obama's fiscal year 2010 budget includes an almost 10% increase in foreign aid. However, the White House Office of Management and Budget has been discussing "extending out" the target of doubling foreign aid, likely into what some hope will be Obama's second term. Steve Radelet of the Center for Global Development said that although the development community reacted "pretty positively" to Obama's budget, there is "still a wait-and-see attitude."

In addition, some in the development community have said that the current economic crisis is the time to reform the U.S. foreign aid system to make it more current and efficient. However, "questions remain about whether Congress will go for what the president is proposing and where any additional money will be spent," according to the Monitor.

Congress recently approved $900 million for the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria -- the highest annual U.S. contribution since the Global Fund launched. Global Fund officials still say that they plan to monitor the 2010 U.S. contribution for any signals about donations. "We are all aware of the severity of the global economic crisis and the strain it is putting on budgets and economies," Christoph Benn of the Global Fund said. He added that he remains hopeful because when Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were senators, they all signed letters supporting increases to the Global Fund (LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, 3/23).

Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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