US aid to Vietnam won’t be hit by Trump’s 2017 budget plan

By VnExpress, Reuters   February 27, 2017 | 10:55 pm PT
US aid to Vietnam won’t be hit by Trump’s 2017 budget plan
A farmer carries rice on his shoulder during the harvest season on a paddy field in a village outside Hanoi. Photo by Reuters
Humanitarians around the world are closely watching Washington, following reports that Trump wants to increase defense spending.

While many are expecting U.S. overseas aid to be affected by President Donald Trump’s plan to increase defense spending in his upcoming budget, data seem to suggest that Vietnam may not have to bear the brunt this year.

According to the Guardian, the United States will still operate the largest overseas aid program in the world, with a proposed federal spend of $50.1 billion for the fiscal year 2017. The news website, reviewing the new budget plan, expected Afghanistan, Jordan and Ethiopia to be the largest single intended recipients of economic and development assistance from the U.S.

Vietnam, based on the plan, will remain one of the top recipients in East Asia and Pacific, with a requested $131.9 million for all accounts, including $50 million in development assistance, also known as humanitarian aid. These are up from $125.8 million and $34.7 million, respectively, based on the proposal for 2016.  

While these figures may come as good news for Vietnam, it should be noted that the global health initiative portion could see a hit: from $53.1 million requested for 2016 to $48.1 million for this year. All of this is intended for HIV/AIDS, according to the plan.

Foreign aid has played an important role for Vietnam and its economy over the past three decades. The country, under a national plan announced last year, hopes to raise $39.5 billion in official development assistance and preferential loans between 2016 and 2020 to boost its economic growth.

‘Historic’ budget plan

Trump is seeking what he called a "historic" increase in defense spending, but ran into immediate opposition from Republicans in Congress who must approve his plan and said it was not enough to meet the military's needs.

The proposed rise in the Pentagon budget to $603 billion comes as the U.S. has wound down major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and remains the world's strongest military power.

The plan came under fire from Democratic lawmakers, who said cuts being proposed to pay for the additional military spending would cripple important domestic programs such as environmental protection and education.

A White House budget official, who outlined the plan on a conference call with reporters, said the administration would propose "increasing defense by $54 billion or 10 percent." That represents the magnitude of the increase over budget caps Congress put in place in 2011.

But Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, said the plan would bring the Pentagon's budget to $603 billion in total, just 3 percent more than the $584 billion the agency spent in the most recent fiscal year, which ended on September 30, 2016.

The rise would be slightly higher than the country's current 2.5 percent rate of inflation.

"President Trump intends to submit a defense budget that is a mere 3 percent above President (Barack) Obama’s defense budget, which has left our military underfunded, undersized, and unready to confront threats to our national security," John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

The defense boost would be balanced by slashing the same amount from non-defense spending, including a large reduction in foreign aid, the White House budget official said.

Trump does not have the final say on federal spending. His plan for the military is part of a budget proposal to Congress, which, although it is controlled by his fellow Republicans, will not necessarily follow his plans.

Budget negotiations with lawmakers can take months.

The Guardian said that humanitarians around the world “had been bracing themselves” for possible cuts to their budgets since Trump’s election.

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