In 2002, President Bush announced the creation of the Millennium Challenge Account to “expand our fight against AIDS” and aid democracy in developing nations. He promised that the program would receive $5 billion a year beginning in FY 2006 and beyond.
America is leading the fight against global poverty, with strong education initiatives and humanitarian assistance. We’ve also changed the way we deliver aid by launching the Millennium Challenge Account. This program strengthens democracy, transparency, and the rule of law in developing nations, and I ask you to fully fund this important initiative.
Yet just a week after this speech, Bush released his FY 2009 budget that requests a funding cut for the program. Although Congress has repeatedly underfunded the program, Bush’s requests for the program have never come close to $5 billion. Funding levels for FY 2009, however, fall to a new low:
|Fiscal Year||Budget Request|
|FY 2006||$3 billion|
|FY 2007||$3 billion|
|FY 2008||$3 billion|
|FY 2009||$2.225 billion|
The Wall Street Journal notes that Bush’s $2.225 billion request is enough to just “provide packages to Ukraine, Moldova, Jordan, Timor-Leste and Malawi.”
Not only has Bush backtracked on his the Millennium Challenge Account, but he largely ignored democracy promotion on his recent Middle East trip. In Saudi Arabia, Bush spent time with King Abdullah, but never met with “one Saudi dissident or political activist, much less a democrat.”
Not surprisingly, democracy activists in the Middle East say they feel “disappointed” by Bush.