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Waters Opposes Republican Bill to Punish Poor Countries, Calls out Trump's Racist Remarks

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Washington, DC, January 17, 2018 | comments

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, gave the following floor statement in opposition to the World Bank Accountability Act, a bill that would allow for cuts to funding for the International Development Association (IDA). IDA provides grants and other assistance to the world’s 77 poorest countries, which are home to more than 450 million people living in extreme poverty.

As Prepared for Delivery

I rise in opposition to H.R. 3326, the World Bank Accountability Act of 2017.

Last year, Democrats on the Financial Services Committee joined our Republican colleagues in favorably reporting H.R. 3326 out of Committee to support the bill’s authorization of a U.S. contribution of $3.29 billion to multilateral development efforts, and to reinforce the importance of U.S. leadership at the international financial institutions.

But the favorable report in Committee came with clear conditions for the future of the bill. Democrats made it clear during consideration of this bill in Committee that our ongoing support for the measure would depend upon changes to provisions in the bill, moving forward, that put critical U.S. funding at risk.

But here we are today, and Republicans have not made any effort at all to address our very specific concerns.

Namely, the bill would cut up to 30 percent of the U.S. contribution to the International Development Association (IDA), in any year in which the Treasury Secretary does not certify to Congress that the Bank has adopted or is taking steps to implement two sets of reforms mandated in the bill.

IDA is the arm of the World Bank that provides grants and other assistance to the world’s 77 poorest countries, which are home to more than 450 million people living in extreme poverty. Cuts to U.S. funds to IDA would punish millions of children and other vulnerable people in Africa, Latin America and Asia who are living in extreme poverty, who are suffering from famine, or emerging from conflict.

Democrats do not believe that cutting U.S. funds for, and diminishing U.S. influence at, the international financial institutions is an effective approach to reform. To remedy this problem with the bill, Representative Moore, who is the Ranking Member on our Committee’s Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade, had sought to offer an amendment on the floor to strike the provisions in the bill that would give the Administration cover to cut U.S. funding for multilateral efforts aimed at alleviating global poverty. The amendment would have maintained both sets of reforms currently in the bill, and directed the Secretary of the Treasury to actively promote these policy goals through advocacy and direct engagement with World Bank management as well as the Bank’s other major shareholders.

Unfortunately, the Rules Committee refused to make this amendment in order, thus depriving the House of the opportunity to decide for itself which approach it prefers to take—reforming the Bank by fiat, with a threat to cut funding, or reforming the Bank through the exercise of U.S. influence and power at the Bank, based on the merits of the reforms themselves.

Mr. Chairman, the process by which this bill has come to the floor stands in stark contrast to our Committee’s long history of working together on issues relating to global economic governance. For many years, the Financial Services Committee has worked in a bipartisan fashion to achieve a number of important reforms at the World Bank, including increased transparency, the creation of the Inspection Panel, more disclosure of information, and closer consultation with local communities most affected by Bank projects. We were able to successfully advance these policy goals through serious and direct negotiations, and sustained engagement with both the Department of Treasury and the World Bank itself, not by threatening to walk away from our commitments.

But the Trump Administration has consistently demonstrated troubling attitudes about the role of the U.S. in the world. In November of last year, in testimony before the Financial Services Committee, David Malpass, Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs, expressed the Administration’s view that “that globalism and multilateralism have gone substantially too far.” In December, the Trump Administration refused to pledge any funds for the next replenishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a small multilateral development bank that helps the poor in remote rural areas where few donors operate. And of course, just last week this President made ignorant, racist, and deplorable comments about Africa, where, as it happens, IDA focuses a great deal of its resources and energy.

Mr. Chairman, the more committed we are to our goals and to our ideals, the more morally obligated we are to do everything we can to advance those goals. The legislation before us today, in its current form, fails to meet that test. So I will be opposing this legislation, and I urge my colleagues to do the same. We can and should do better. I reserve the balance of my time.


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