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Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Written by Frank Klobucar, GORBI

01/07/2013 10:15 (296 Day 20:09 minutes ago)

The FINANCIAL -- The United States’ primary foreign aid organization, USAID, spent about 43 billion dollars over the last fiscal year to develop economies and democraciesaround the world.  This charitable givingdoesn’t comeonly from compassion and fraternity; numerous reports from the agency state primary end-goals like promoting US national security, opening markets to American investment, and protecting US personnel overseas. In short, its job is to promote America’s interests by way of good will development projects. 

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Monitoring and Evaluating forsuch projectsisthe primary specialty of the research firm for which I work (GORBI), but this week I’ll be discussing USAID’s success in its longer term goal of pro-American sentiment.  As you’re about to see,they seem to be doingastoundingly well.


To judge “return on investment,” we’ll be using data from the most recent wave of the EU Neighborhood Barometer, carried out by TNS opinion and Georgian Opinion Research Business International (GORBI), funded by the EU. GORBI was responsible for surveying people in Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine , and the three Caucasian countries.  We’ll look at how often respondents identified the US as “one of the actors capable of most effectively helping economic development in our country,” and compare it to how much USAID spent per-person in FY 2012.


Where Did the Money Go?


Israel predictably tops the charts for US spending with a staggering $395 per capita, a total of more than 3 billion USD.  They are also far and above the most confident in the US’s development capabilities, with 71% of Israelis mentioning the US.   In fact, they were the only country more likely to mention the US than the European Union as a capable developer.

Georgia pulled in a still-quite-respectable 19 bucks a head and is second runner-up in the US cheerleading club.  At the same time Belarusians,who rank at the bottom of the ENPI East, get about a dollar and don’t give the US a second thought.  This trend becomes less stable at the bottom of the ENPI South, where some countries have much more faith in the US than a dollar-for- point investment structure would suggest: Moroccans get even less than Belarusians but are in third place in their confidence in US development.


These numbers do seem to imply a pretty strong relationship between dollars spent and confidence in the US, but our brains can play tricks on us.  So, I ran a simple Pearson correlation and was taken aback;the number that popped out was a .8. If you pay any attention to correlations, you realize just howhigh .8 is – the strength of this relationship is usually reserved for things like “church attendance and religiosity.”


I’m obligated here to remind you that correlation is not causation: it’s very possible that USAID rewards western-looking populations rather than advertising to them.   Furthermore, USAID is surely not the only interaction that the American government has with a country, and attitudes might be likewise linked to some other factors.  It seems reasonable, though, that US charitable investment would be closely related to other diplomatic efforts and therefore a good, concrete measurement of its greater foreign policy.


While our sample is small and variables are fairly one-dimensional, my interest is piqued.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be collecting data on more international aid organizations, such as the UN and EU, with the hope of discovering which of these groups seem to be putting their money in the “right” places.


All USAID investment numbers come from congressional reports, and population numbers from each country’s most recent official censuses. Visit our website at gorbi.com for more articles.

 

 

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