WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama defended US foreign aid Wednesday as “a tiny amount that has a big impact” amid calls to trim overseas help to get cash-strapped Washington’s fiscal house in order.
“It’s something that, even in tough fiscal times, American needs to continue to do as part of our role as a global leader,” he said as he took questions in a “Twitter Town Hall” from users of the popular microblogging site.
Obama noted that the US public has an “exaggerated” sense of the amount of money going to overseas aid, saying it represents only about two percent of the US government’s annual budget, or one percent if narrowly defined.
“It’s a tiny amount that has a big impact,” he said in a video response to a questioner who urged that the United States stop giving money to countries that “waste” it and cited Pakistan among the culprits.
“America, to be a leader in the world, to have influence, to help stabilize countries and create opportunity for people so that they don’t breed terrorists or create huge refugee flows and so forth — it’s smart for us to make a very modest investment in foreign aid,” said Obama.
Various opinion polls have found the US public estimates foreign aid to total up to 20 percent of overall discretionary spending, and that voters favor cuts at a time when cherished programs are on the chopping block.
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