US aid to Egypt no longer in limbo

A demonstration in Tahrir with people waving the Egyptian flag. Photo by: Mariam Soliman / CC BY

After months of using aid as a tool to help get its people out of Egypt, the United States now seems bent on letting go of its leverage on the Egyptian government.

U.S. Congress passed a law last year requiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to first certify that Egypt is on the path to democracy before the United States disburses annual funding to the country, including $250 million in civilian aid.

The law has been useful in the United States’ negotiations with the Egyptian government to secure the release of U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations’ aid workers in the country. The Egypt-NGO row went on for months and strained Egypt’s relations with its largest bilateral donor.

But senior administration officials told The Washington Post that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will, on Friday (March 23), “waive those restrictions” on the grounds of national security. What’s more, the administration will hand over the funding in full instead of doling out portions to maintain leverage, the paper adds.

Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the bill’s author, expressed his disappointment over the news. He said Clinton should use the law’s “flexibility” and release “no more taxpayer funds than is demonstrably necessary.”

Jon Alterman, Middle East director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, meanwhile, doubts releasing the funds will earn the United States “goodwill” in Egypt.

“One of the effects after decades of aid is a spectacular sense of entitlement from the Egyptians,” Alterman said, adding that a likely reaction among Egyptians would be “you owed us this anyway.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.