Breaking news: US development assistance may be slashed to zero, document
An apparent US State Department budgetary document shows the body plans to gut foreign aid to Cambodia, completely eliminating all development assistance and slashing health programs funded by the State Department and USAID as well.
The document, obtained and published by Foreign Policy on Monday, shows that development assistance to the Kingdom would be cut to zero in 2018, down from a 2016 real spending level of $34.5 million. Similarly, the Economic Support Fund will see a 100 percent cut from its $8 million in 2016.
While it would not be completely eliminated, the Global Health Program funded by the State Department and USAID would see 18.3 and 37.4 percent cuts by the respective agencies from 2016 levels.
The potential cuts come in the wake of the US President Donald Trump’s March budget proposal that showed a one-third cut to government development assistance to developing countries. However, the budget has a long way to go before being approved by Congress, and the March proposal was met with criticism, even by some of President Trump’s fellow Republicans.
Cambodia is one of 77 countries that would see their development assistance slashed to zero, with the fellow ASEAN states Indonesia, Thailand, Laos and The Philippines seeing similar proposed cuts.
US Embassy spokesman Jay Raman declined to comment on the document.
The cuts are also unlikely to improve ties between the Cambodia and the US, which have entered a rocky phase of late. Multiple high-ranking Cambodian officials have heaped criticism on the US for its bombing of Cambodia in the 1970s and its refusal to forgive war-era debt.
Analysts have suggested that the heated rhetoric indicates a shift away from traditional Western partners and towards China, which has emerged as Cambodia’s main patron in recent years.
The timing of the revelations is also unfortunate, with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy meeting with officials from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs today in Phnom Penh.