USAID Eyes Downsizing Latin American Operations

A high school student presents his arguments at Queen’s College, Georgetown, during a debate aimed at raising youth awareness of the Caribbean’s new single market, which is part of a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded program in Guyana. USAID plans to administer its projects for Guyana from one of its regional offices to help save costs, according to a senior official of the agency. Photo by: USAID

The U.S. Agency for International Development will shut down two of its missions in Latin America and the Caribbean to follow through with the Obama administration’s sustainable approach to development, according to a key USAID official.

In last year’s Millennium Development Goals summit, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to focus the administration’s efforts “where we have the best partners and where we can have the greatest impact.”

>> Obama Unveils Development Policy at UN MDG Meet

“For USAID, that will mean operating in fewer countries; in each country working in fewer sectors; and in each sector, implementing fewer programs,” USAID Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean Mark Feierstein testified Feb. 17 before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The aid agency will close its mission and “wind down” its programs in Panama “in recognition of the gains” Panama has achieved since USAID reopened its office in the country in 1990, according to Feierstein.

USAID also plans to administer its projects for Guyana from one of its regional offices to help save costs, the USAID official added.

“Steps like these will enable us to shift program resources and staff to countries where the need is greatest and where we are confident we have strong partners to achieve our development goals,” Feierstein said.

Feierstein also noted that USAID will reduce its work in sectors such as family planning in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“We will continue to look for smart ways to exit other sectors, as well as other countries, and revisit our portfolio of programs to make sure we are utilizing our resources in the most effective way possible,” he said, noting that the aid agency will focus its efforts on improving the capacity of governments, promoting democratic governance, and expanding economic opportunities in the region.

Feierstein said USAID hopes to collaborate with countries that graduate from being U.S. aid recipients as “fellow donors.”

“As countries reach a point when they no longer need our assistance, we will actively recruit them to work with USAID as a fellow donor,” he said. “We are already working with countries like Brazil and Chile, which have valuable lessons to share from their recent successes in achieving broad-based economic growth. We are looking to expand upon those arrangements and form new ones.”

Read more about U.S. development aid.

About the author

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    Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.