THE WHITE HOUSE
PRESS BRIEFING BY
4:55 P.M. (L)
MR. HAMMER: Good afternoon. The first briefing that we're going to have today is by the Administrator for the United States Agency for International Development, Brady Anderson, who will talk about some of AID's programs here in the region.
ADMINISTRATOR ANDERSON: Thank you. Good afternoon. I want to start out by thanking the people of the village of Joypura, who were so gracious to allow us to relocate the village event that the President was going to attend from the village of Joypura to the U.S. Embassy. The President was very disappointed that he was not able to go to the village of Joypura, but the people of Joypura were very kind to come to him. And he had a lot of time with them, and he had time to ask a lot of questions and learn about their lives and the challenges they face.
We've had a very productive day. The President, as you know, announced several United States Agency for International Development initiatives. Highlights would include the $50-million South Asia regional initiative, which is a power and clean energy initiative for the region, including Bangladesh, India and Nepal. It will encourage cooperation among the three nations in the energy sector.
The President also announced a $30-million clean energy initiative for the country of Bangladesh alone, to enable this country to privatize, to examine ways in which they can be more efficient at their energy production. He also announced a $4-million grant to the Grameen-Shakti organization, which is a sister of the Grameen Bank in this country of microenterprise fame. And that grant will enable small borrowers to borrow money and purchase small solar power for their homes and their small businesses, like sewing and that sort of thing.
Also, $97 million in food assistance for the people of Bangladesh, a large part of which will be through programs operated by the World Vision, an American NGO here. Also, the President announced a debt for nature swap which will be under the new Tropical Rain Forest Conservation Act.
Additionally, the President drew attention to the very important issues in this region of child labor and trafficking of women and children. He announced $3 million will be spent for education and skills training for women and girls who have been exploited, and $1 million for NGOs and the government of Bangladesh to prevent trafficking -- sort of bringing a network of government and NGOs together in this country who want to prevent the trafficking of women.
Americans are a very generous people, and Bangladesh represents one of USAID's largest assistance programs in the world, totally in this year about $88 million. All around the world, U.S. assistance emphasizes the dignity and the world of individuals, helping provide an environment in which individuals can find opportunity for social and economic growth.
The government of Bangladesh has made enormous strides in tackling the very difficult issue of population growth by bringing the total fertility rate down from 6.6 25 years ago, to 3.3 today. The government of Bangladesh has strengthened its democracy and worked to raise the status of women, and reduce child labor. And they have been pioneering in their role in development with their inception of the Grameen Bank.
Discussions and agreements today will help rural communities make use of the sun, to provide electricity for their homes and their small businesses. They will help Bangladesh to provide considerably increased clean power for domestic use. And they will help create a setting for South Asia neighbors to mutually consider the increasing need and opportunity for regional cooperation in the energy field.
Increasingly, environment and economic opportunities occur both within a country and across borders, and our assistance specifically recognizes this reality in South Asia.
Q Is all this money the President's to commit? Or does it require any congressional approval?
ADMINISTRATOR ANDERSON: This money's been appropriated by the Congress.
Q Can you help summarize -- we're giving $88 million this year. How much total was announced? And is that on top of the $88 million?
ADMINISTRATOR ANDERSON: How much total was that --
Q How much total was announced to date?
ADMINISTRATOR ANDERSON: The $88 million would have to be added in with all the other -- the $50 million, the $30 million, the $4 million --
Q And all that up to date, how much -- I was writing it down, but I'm not sure I --
ADMINISTRATOR ANDERSON: Yes -- $200 million. It all went -- the $88 million will be spent in one year. The $50 million, which is a regional program, including Nepal, India and Bangladesh, is a four-year program, for example. The $30 million for clean energy in Bangladesh is also a multiyear program. The $88 million is distinct from that, includes food aid -- about half of it, or a little bit less than half of that is food aid.
Q I guess what I'm saying, I have -- I counted up over $80 million announced to date. Is that your figure?
ADMINISTRATOR ANDERSON: Yes. In addition to the $88 million.
Q In the context of the cross-border cooperation, I think there's an element of encouraging private sector cooperation across the border. Can you explain, develop that for us a little bit?
MR. ANDERSON: Yes. It's both -- it provides -- I mean, we encourage here and a lot of places in the world, in developing countries, privatization of the power system. And that would open it up to companies in Bangladesh or India who would like to invest, or American companies or others -- Europeans or others -- who would like to invest in the power sector. When the power sector is broken down to its various component parts and sold, the government can then realize the greatest benefit from it.
So the regional concept is, bring privatization, bring private capital because the governments are just not going to have the money, and the government of Bangladesh will not have enough money to really develop the natural gas that they need to. It's going to require private capital. So they're going to need the kind of environment with policy and regulations that this initiative will help them formulate both here and in the region to attract private capital. Because the private companies are not going to come in unless they think they can make a profit. And we believe that doing it regionally is the only way that's going to attract the private capital.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 5:05 P.M. (L)