WASHINGTON — Amid global economic turmoil, President Bush said Tuesday that it's more important than ever for the United States and other prosperous nations to help the less fortunate.
"During times of economic crisis, some may be tempted to turn inward — focusing on our problems here at home while ignoring our interests around the world. This would be a serious mistake," Bush said at a summit on international development. "America is committed and must stay committed to international development for reasons that remain true regardless of the ebb and flow of the markets."
Bush said that during the past eight years, the United States has provided more foreign assistance than at any time in the past half century. His policies on foreign aid are embodied in the Millennium Challenge Account, which invests in nations that embrace democracy and free markets, fight corruption, and invest in education and health.
J. Brian Atwood, dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Clinton administration, praised the Bush administration's work to link aid with measurable results. But Atwood criticized the current administration, as well as previous administrations, for not coordinating U.S. international aid work.
"They haven't done anything about the basic structural problem, which is that our foreign aid programs are scattered all over the map," he said. "They are chaotic and incoherent and you're not getting the bang for the buck that you would get if you would have, for example, a single Cabinet department running the whole show like they do in the United Kingdom."