The United States must help poorer countries during the time of crisis, President Bush told Congress Thursday. Speaking from the White House, Bush informed he had asked lawmakers to allocate an additional $770 billion for various relief programs.
Bush said that humanitarian aid was America’s principle and duty. “The American people are generous people and they’re compassionate people. We believe in a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is expected.” The president also urged other rich countries to participate in the costs of foreign aid as more and more people became affected by the world food crisis. “America is in the lead, we’ll stay in the lead, and we expect others to participate along with us. We’re working with our G8 partners and other developed nations to secure commitments from their governments for additional food aid.”
To contain the criticism that his administration concentrated its efforts solely on foreign help while rice and other staple food were being rationed in some regions of the country, Bush revealed that in April the Agricultural Department had provided an additional $150 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). “With this new funding, we will have increased our support for WIC by 18.6 percent this year,” said the president.
In addition, a White House press release informed that the administration would spend around $80 billion in various programs to alleviate the situation of the neediest Americans. It means that the number of citizens who receive help from the Food Stamp Program will increase in 2008 from 26 million to 28 million. “This will add about $30 a month on average, for a family of four,” read the press release.
Earlier on Thursday, the White House Spokesman Tony Fratto reminded that the president had already addressed the world food crisis by releasing $200 million from the Emerson Trust two weeks ago. He also said that “there may be some additional things that we can do, but nothing I can announce right now.” Asked about the details, Fratto answered, “I think Secretary Rice and maybe others have said that we are working on ways that we can continue to help alleviate the severe need around the world, especially in developing countries, as a result of the increase in food prices.”
During the same press briefing, Fratto rejected the notion that so-called ecological fuel played an important part in the current world food crisis. However, one factor being blamed for the price hikes is the use of government subsidies to promote the use of corn for ethanol production. An estimated 30% of America’s corn crop now goes to fuel, not food. “It takes around 400 pounds of corn to make 25 gallons of ethanol.”
The question was raised as some experts claimed that plants such as linen and algae, which are used for natural enriched fuel, are easier and more profitable to grow than rice or wheat. “[I]f you really take a look at the breakdown of food prices in this country and the contribution because of biofuels, it’s not as significant as some of the reporting that I’ve seen has made it appear – and for a lot of different reasons,” said the White House spokesman.
The United States, despite domestic economic problems, remains the single largest contributor of foreign aid. Only last year, the Bush Administration allocated around $2.1 billion among world poorest countries, roughly 0.16 percent of the US gross national income. In comparison, in 2007, the European Union of 27 countries spent on international aid over $50 billion or 0.38 percent of its annual budget.