This is how government wastes your hard-earned tax dollars.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is a federal government agency that is primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and assistance to “developing” countries. With a budget of over $27 billion, USAID is one of the largest official aid agencies in the world, and accounts for more than half of all U.S. foreign assistance (which in absolute dollar terms is the highest in the world).
Elizabeth Harrington reports for Washington Free Beacon, Sept. 13, 2018, that USAID spent over $200 million on the Promoting Gender Equity in National Priority Program (aka Promote) to “empower” 75,000 women in in Afghanistan, but only found jobs for 55 women.
USAID trumpeted the program as part of building a “brighter future for Afghanistan” by empowering its women:
In the Transformation Decade (2015-2024), a new generation of Afghan leaders—both men and women—will emerge who are equipped with the education, skills, and desire to build a brighter future for Afghanistan. Promote is a joint commitment by the U.S. and Afghan Governments that will work to empower 75,000 women between the ages of 18-30 and help ensure these women are included among a new generation of Afghan political, business, and civil society leaders.
Promote aims to empower women to become leaders alongside their male counterparts, and ensure they have the skills, experience, knowledge, and networks to succeed. USAID has committed $216 million to fund the program, making it the largest women’s empowerment project in the U.S. Government’s history. Other international donors are able to contribute an additional $200 million to help expand the program.
Alas, the international donors turned out to be a pie-in-the-sky dream.
According to a new report released by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), no other country or organization has donated to the program, other than the United States:
As of January 2018, no international donors had contributed funding to Promote. Officials from five of the seven donor countries SIGAR spoke to said they cannot financially contribute to the Promote program or that USAID’s assumption that foreign donors would contribute $200 million for the program was an unrealistic goal.
The report says the Promote program is a five-year $216 million effort. Three years into the program, however, USAID has spent $89.7 million but “has not demonstrated whether the program has made progress” toward its goals. The goal was to find new or better jobs for 2,100 women. As of September 2017, only 55 women or 2.6% found employment — which comes to $1.5 million per woman. The report concludes, “It is unclear whether the agency can deliver the opportunities it promised the women of Afghanistan.”
In addition to falling well below its job targets, the future of the program is also in doubt, as Afghanistan is unlikely to continue the program without the United States. The report points out that “This raises questions about whether Promote is sustainable at all and could put USAID’s investment in the program in jeopardy.”
The report recommends USAID should reevaluate the program before spending its remaining taxpayer-funded budget:
Given that the program has expended $89.7 of its potential $216 million, USAID has an opportunity to reassess and adjust the program and take steps to enhance its sustainability now, rather than waiting until the program is over in 2020 or 2021.
Stephen Frank of California Political Review observes:
At a cost of $1.5 million per person, the U.S. government got 55 Afghan women jobs. Any wonder we are laughed at by the rest of the world. For about $50,000 a piece they [the women] could get a college education or vocational training. But, the more that is “spent” on the women, the more jobs for U.S. government workers there is to go around.
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