Over the years, the amount of U.S. foreign aid has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since the end of World War II. But if a project in Egypt is any example, too much aid is still being wasted.
According to the inspector general of the Agency for International Development, America and Egypt in 1979 entered into a joint project to provide low-income housing for 4,000 families. Ten years later, after the expenditure of $71 million by the United States and $63 million by Egypt, not one Egyptian family had been housed.Poor management decisions were blamed for the problem. There were disputes over who would be eligible and how rent would be collected. Those are understandable, but 10 years for one housing project?
The AID report covered a period ending March 31. Since the report was written, 205 families have moved into the housing project. So far, it has cost the two governments about $650,000 per family.
At $2.3 billion a year, Egypt gets more U.S. aid than any nation except Israel. There need to be tighter controls over what happens to it. The report criticized the agency's system for checking on the $3.4 billion worth of goods sent to Egypt since 1975.
For example, the arrival of $283 million in AID-financed commodities in Egypt through April 30, 1988, has not been verified - despite previous reports from the inspector general calling attention to the problem.
Americans are generous people and don't mind helping troubled or poor countries. But if that help is seen as being wasted, the willingness to supply more foreign aid will continue to shrink.