The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Congress approves endowment for Egypt

From POMED's weekly wire newsletter:

On Thursday (12/10), the House passed H.R.3228, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2010, in a 221-202 vote. On Saturday (12/12), the Senate voted 60-35 on a cloture motion to end debate and bring the bill up for a vote. The bill was then passed by the Senate in a special session yesterday and sent to the President. Full details of the Conference Report for the bill are available on the website of the House Rules Committee, including the full text of Division F of the bill, the portion of the bill making appropriations for State and Foreign Operations, as well as the Joint Explanatory Statement that accompanies it. The bill includes a controversial provision that permits $50 million of the $250 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) allocated for Egypt to be put into "an endowment to further the shared interests of the United States and Egypt." Such an endowment has been advocated for several years by the Egyptian government, and is widely viewed as an attempt to reduce the potential leverage by Congress afforded by U.S. economic aid to Egypt. Other levels of funding in the bill include $65 million for the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which is a 30% increase over funding in recent years, but $5 million less than included in the House version of the State and Foreign Operations bill passed in July. For reference and comparison, see POMED's report on the budget and appropriations process from July, and keep an eye out for a brief report on the final version of the bill.

The endowment is less than Egypt had been hoping for, but a first start to pushing for the acceptance of an endowment at all, with potential for growth later. The original idea had been that funds provided by the US would be matched by the Egyptian government and allocated to development projects; but it's not clear what the mechanisms for allocation will be now and whether any of this money will be earmarked for specific areas. Of course for now the remaining $200 is in part allocated to certain areas. Overall, though, the US-Egypt aid relationship continues to move away to any notion of conditionality, as it has since the beginning of the Obama administration or possibly the last year or two of the Bush administration.

Note that the House of Representatives has approved this just as the bi-annual US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue took place in Washington earlier this week.