Barron's February 21, 2005


Monday, February 21, 2005


Bribing for Honesty
A cherished Bush program goes astray


PRESIDENT BUSH IS PROPOSING TO DOUBLE the budget for his Millennium
Challenge Account (MCA) foreign aid program, from $1.5 to $3 billion a year.
Bush calls the program "a bold new vision for international development
and a powerful expression of the generous spirit of the American people."
But this reform has turned out to be very little more than a new name for
the same old boondoggles.


. On Sept. 30, the White House announced creation of an MCA Threshold Program to give $40 million in grants to governments which are "very close to qualifying" for regular MCA handouts.

One of the "threshold" countries is Paraguay -- rated by Transparency
International as among the half dozen most corrupt nations in the world.
Kenya, rated by the same group as among the world's 20 most corrupt
nations, also received the Bush administration's "threshold" status.
Kenya's prospects for collecting an MCA windfall may have taken a big hit
after its anti-corruption chief fled the country (reportedly fearing for
his life), faxing in his resignation on Feb. 7 from London. Twenty Kenya
organizations, including the nation's largest manufacturers association,
issued a statement that the resignation "sounds the death knell" on the
official fight against corruption.


President Bush preaches about how foreign politicians must prove their
worthiness to receive bonus aid. But there is no requirement for American
politicians to show that they have reformed, to prove that they are worthy
to dole out other Americans' money to their foreign friends and lackeys.
Politicians are far more likely to receive laudatory press coverage and
awards from humanitarian associations for giving handouts, not for
imposing discipline.


JAMES BOVARD is the author of The Bush Betrayal (Palgrave MacMillan) and
seven other books about politics.