Most Americans love the idea of giving to charity, but that attitude doesn't often extend to the way they feel about foreign aid. Start talking about the billions of dollars given annually to developing countries and military allies, and suddenly – and not unjustifiably – there are objections made about how the money is being handled. Is it really the best idea to start funnelling hundreds of millions into a corrupt country that can't even police itself? What about dropping a few million to fund a militia group? Regardless of the value of the cause, that's a large sum of money that's badly needed by many stateside. Why is the government ignoring Detroit?
Of course, there are dozens of variables at play when the government allocates funds overseas. Areas of strategic interest are likely to get some cash, as are those countries that are in desperate need of a kick-start to the economy. Then, of course, there are those areas that may not fall as neatly into either of those two categories as some others, but to which the government has some obligation to give a decent sum of money. There are a lot of places that are hurting pretty badly because of American “intervention,” and foreign aid payments are usually part of the deal when Uncle Sam packs up and heads home.
So, of the many (and there are many) countries receiving American foreign aid, which ones are taking in the most? Most are areas that have experienced some amount of armed conflict or unrest in the past few years, and most are developing countries that could really use a bit of help. The one exception to that second element also happens to be the number one recipient of US foreign aid. Yes, it’s the one you think.
Here are the ten biggest recipients of US foreign aid in the 2014 fiscal year.
10 Uganda: $456. 3 Million
America is the world’s largest donor to Uganda, with $456.3 million earmarked for the country in 2014. Much of the funding goes toward healthcare initiatives, propping up AIDS relief efforts and helping support malaria-related initiatives. Other areas to which funds are allocated include initiatives to protect human rights and develop a greater standard of governance in the country. That encompasses a drive to modernize policing and military training and deployment in the country.
Uganda’s widely publicized – and now rejected by the courts – anti-homosexuality law led America to cut aid to the country in June of this year. The law would have seen homosexuals punished with as much as a lifetime in prison. Many countries either cut off or altered their existing aid agreements with Uganda as a result of the law being passed.
9 Tanzania: $552.5 Million
A close military ally, Tanzania makes it to the ninth position on this list, receiving $552.5 million in aid funds in 2014. As with many of the African nations accepting money from America, Tanzania benefits from money dedicated to disease control efforts, including HIV and AIDS, avian flu, and measles.
There’s also a significant amount of money intended to help the country maintain its unique flora and fauna. The Serengeti is located in the north of the country, and is home to gazelles, wildebeests, zebras, lions, and more. Other targets of the aid money include cracking down on illegal child labour, supporting the continued development of the economy of Tanzania, and the amelioration of infrastructure and transportation capabilities within the country.
8 Kenya: $563.8 Million
Kenya is an increasingly important ally to America, and the recipient of $563.8 million in aid funds in 2014. According to American Department of State, relations with Kenya center on these four main points: (1) strengthen democratic institutions; (2) spur economic growth, trade and investment; (3) advance peace and security; and (4) promote opportunity and development.
The Department of State notes that Kenya’s corruption and lack of security, coupled with its relative closeness to conflict zones, make effecting any lasting change in the country a challenge. America has also helped to improve the quality of policing and military training in the country.
7 Iraq: $573.2 Million
The situation in Iraq was bad before America got there, was never stable while America was there, and has devolved into chaos since America left. The country was designated $573.2 million in aid funding in 2014, though that amount has no doubt jumped thanks to the rise of the Islamic State, which has begun taking over towns and cities across Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the Middle East.
Most of the funds America sends to Iraq are dedicated to establishing long-term stability in the country, supporting marginalized areas and promoting better government by and for the Iraqi people. Human rights and promotion of culture are also important elements of the aid sent.
6 Jordan: $670.5 Million
Enjoying a long-lasting relationship with America that goes back to the 1940s, Jordan was allocated $670.5 Million in US aid in 2014. The money going to Jordan typically goes toward developing health infrastructure, agriculture, and education, helping Jordanians improve their quality of life year on year.
Interestingly, its status as a close ally of the US makes America’s Middle East policy somewhat trickier. After Israel’s seizure of the West Bank from Jordan in 1967, the official American stance has been that the West Bank is occupied territory, and the ownership of that land will need to be decided between the parties involved in the dispute. Israel, of course, is one of the most important countries to America’s Middle Eastern interests.
5 Nigeria: $692.7 Million
An oil-rich African country that's plagued by unrest and an untrustworthy government, Nigeria is the recipient of $692.7 Million in American aid funding. The country has a long history of turmoil, experiencing several coups in the past decades, as well as a civil war that claimed between one and three million lives.
Much of the American funding received by Nigeria goes toward modernizing the institutions of its fledgling democracy, as well as updating the country’s military, health system, and agricultural infrastructure.
The country still has a long way to go. The Department of State notes that “Nigeria has yet to develop effective measures to address corruption, poverty, and ineffective social service systems, and mitigate the violence.”
4 Pakistan: $1.16 Billion
Pakistan is a bit of a puzzle. It receives plenty of American aid, and was infamously the country within which American drones assassinated many Islamist terrorist figures. And yet there is evidence that Pakistan allowed Osama Bin Laden to remain in hiding within its borders. More troubling is that journalists have found proof that the country is, if not actively sponsoring terrorism, certainly doing little to contain it.
And yet Pakistan was pegged to receive $1.16 billion in American aid in 2014, largely for improvements to energy, infrastructure, and disaster relief. The stated goal is to promote a stronger Pakistan, though America’s presence in the country suggests there might be more self-interested goals at play.
3 Egypt: $1.55 Billion
Much of the $1.55 billion in American foreign aid that Egypt receives will be put to use supporting and attempting to guide the supposed democracy of that country into a brighter future. The Department of State counts among its chief goals in funding Egypt “efforts to protect civil liberties and human rights, introduce transparency and accountability in government, foster economic growth and democratic institutions, and develop a robust, independent civil society.”
Egypt is one of few countries in the region to actively deal with Israel, and special import fee consideration is offered to Egyptian goods that contain a substantial amount of Israeli materials, offering incentive for the countries to cooperate.
2 Afghanistan: $2.20 Billion
Afghanistan is another odd one - it's at once much better now than prior to the American invasion and yet in a constant state of unease because of the prominence of terror groups in the region.
As with Egypt and Iraq, the money sent to Afghanistan is meant to help promote the new democracy that's being built in the country, as well as to keep out the malicious fringe groups that could unsettle the precarious society. Anti-drug campaigns, infrastructure and health projects, and efforts to make the new government more representative are all particular goals of the aid funding. With Afghanistan set to take full control of its own security in the coming months, the social gains built through the funds sent by America and other countries will soon be put to the test.
1 Israel: $3.1 Billion
Israel, both before and after its founding, has always been a delicate political subject. From its beginnings as a dream of a Jewish homeland, to its establishment in the wake of WWII, to the immediate military response by neighbouring Arab countries, and now to the bombing of Gaza by the Israeli military, the country has gone from controversy to controversy, defended – at least in part – by its foremost ally, America.
There’s little variety in the way Israel spends American aid. Israeli military training, weaponry and equipment, and technology all get a boost from American tax dollars. The continued occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel, especially in light of the military funding the country receives from America, makes the conflict in that region a hot political issue stateside.