Trump budget spares Kenya from deep cuts in Aid

Thursday May 25 2017

US President Donald Trump. PHOTO | SAUL LOEB |

US President Donald Trump. PHOTO | SAUL LOEB | AFP 

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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President Donald Trump's proposed US spending plan generally spares Kenya from the deep cuts the White House is seeking in the overall foreign assistance budget.

The State Department would have its budget slashed by 32 per cent under the Trump plan released on Tuesday. Assistance to Kenya would be reduced by no more than 10 per cent and probably less than that.

Moreover, there is virtually no chance that Congress will approve the full magnitude of the cuts Mr Trump is requesting in US aid to developing countries.

Most of Trump's proposed funding reduction for Kenya from $711 million (Sh73 billion) last year to $639 (Sh64 billion) million in the coming year reflects his call to eliminate the Food for Peace Programme administered by the US Agency for International Development (USAid).

Kenya received $53 million in Food for Peace assistance last year.

FOOD AID

But that envisioned cut may not result in an actual loss of US food aid to Kenya. President Trump wants to shift the focus of US food assistance to a $2.5 billion worldwide disaster-response initiative that he says will adequately address food crises despite a proposed $300 million reduction in this form of aid.

Spending on disaster assistance programmes is not listed on a country-by-country basis in the White House budget documents.

The decision to sustain funding for other types of aid to Kenya reflects Mr Trump's stated intention to "support those countries and programmes that are most critical to US national security and strategic objectives."

Some African countries of less strategic significance to Washington will have US development assistance eliminated entirely in accordance with the president's "America First" approach to budget-making.

NEW PROGRAMME

But Kenya and a few other sub-Saharan states would experience little or no reduction in this broad form of aid, which the White House now places under a new heading: Economic Support and Development Fund.

Kenya would receive $83 million in fiscal 2018 through this renamed programme an amount almost identical to what it got last year via the State Department's development assistance account.

The State Department's budget outline says this reworked funding mechanism "will target the most important issues constraining Kenya’s stability and growth, including insecurity, economic inclusion, governance challenges and access to clean water and sanitation."

Aid to Kenya will additionally support "efforts to counter violent extremism and defeat Al-Shabaab and ISIS incursions in the region, mitigate conflict, counter wildlife crime, promote governance reforms, and enhance economic opportunities for rural households to access markets."

FIGHTING TERRORISM

Mr Trump's emphasis on combating militant groups such as Al-Shabaab is highlighted by a $4.5 million "anti-terrorism assistance" programme for Kenya.

The budget outline says this funding "will help professionalise Kenya’s counterterrorism law enforcement community to build capacity in the areas of land border security (especially the country’s border with Somalia), counterterrorism investigations and counterterrorism crisis response."

The White House also sets aside $1 million to help curb "corruption and violent practices by some Kenyan security forces." Lawless behaviour on the part of police is said to "contribute to instability and foster discontent among citizens, potentially leading to radicalisation."

US funding for Aids treatment and other healthcare programmes in Kenya would drop slightly under the Trump budget from a total of $565 million in fiscal 2016 to $550 million in the coming year.

APPROVE BUDGET

Despite the White House's proposal to leave funding for Kenya largely intact, the country would experience fallout from spending reductions Mr Trump aims to achieve in several international aid initiatives.

The president is calling for elimination of the African Development Foundation that uses $1.4 million of its $30 million total budget to promote food security and agriculture in Turkana County.

Mr Trump also wants to scrap other US government entities that seek to facilitate investment in and trade with developing countries, including Kenya.

US funding for a range of United Nations programmes, such as efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change in Africa, would likewise be ended or sharply reduced if Congress were to rubber-stamp the budget plan Mr Trump is submitting.

That outcome is unlikely, however.

WITHDRAW

The Republican-controlled Congress earlier this month refused to accept in the current fiscal year many of the same foreign-aid cuts the president now wants to impose in the 2018 fiscal year that begins in October.

The 32 per cent USAid and State Department cut Mr Trump is again urging will almost certainly not be approved by Congress.

Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of a panel that formulates budgets for US overseas aid programmes, warned on Tuesday that the extreme scale-back sought by Mr Trump "means you really have to withdraw from the world because your presence is compromised."

"That may be the goal of this budget," Senator Graham said in regard to the plan offered by Mr Trump. "It's not my goal."