Sunday, January 6, 2008

Water for the Poor Act - funded!

Happy 2008! We're off on the right foot:

As you know, the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act was signed into law in late 2005 by President Bush, making water and sanitation priorities of U.S. foreign policy. Unfortunately, Congress did not see fit at that point to fund the Act, making the Act basically the same as the President writing "Water is Important" on the back of a cocktail napkin and moving on. But it was a start - and water remains the only Millennium Development Goal that is officially a priority of U.S. foreign policy.

This lack of funding was rectified when the President signed into law the omnibus spending bill a few days ago, in which the following language was included:

"Provided further, That of the funds appropriated in this Act, not less than $300,000,000 shall be made available for safe drinking water and sanitation supply projects, including water management related to safe drinking water and sanitation, only to implement the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-121), of which not less than $125,000,000 should be made available for such projects in Africa."

This is important for two reasons: it's give-or-take $100m more than last year, and more importantly the statutory language above makes it at least more likely that the taxpayer dollars will be invested in longterm safe drinking water and sanitation programming, and not sunk into Iraq, Afghanistan, or disaster response. The legislation essentially says "keep going with those other things, but re-emphasize the importance of longterm capacity-building for water and sanitation where the need is greatest." The most important word in the statutory may well be the "only."

Rep. Payne recently said, in support of precisely this sort of appropriation, that it's the "Water for the POOR Act, not the Water for the WAR Act." Although it is too early to tell how this will turn out, this is clearly a huge step in the right direction and I will be tracking progress closely.


Matthew said...

You may be surprised to hear that this Omnibus bill is a pretty big thing in the world of high school debate.

I do policy debate, and I argue the case that the Water for the Poor Act should be properly funded.

But this bill (sadly, but I suppose in a good way,) kills my case.

I have no "inherent barrier" (evidence showing the plan isn't being enacted right now.) which is the one of the arguments I *need* to win.

Oh, well. Congrats, Africa!

John Oldfield said...

Well, that depends what "properly funded" means. Does $300m constitute "proper funding" for the Water for the Poor Act? I might suggest that it's a good start with lots of room for improvement.

But let's say 100m people throughout the developing world have to get access to safe drinking water each year through the duration of the Millennium Development Goals - which is about the right number taking population growth into account. Let's also say for the sake of debate that the U.S. should be responsible for helping with 10% of that, say 10 million people each year. If it costs $US100 per person for a safe, affordable and sustainable supply of drinking water, sanitation and hygiene education, that's $1B. So $300m for 2008 is a nice start, but the goal of the water sector now is to make sure that that dollar amount grows, and that those dollars are spent on the sort of work envisioned in the Water for the Poor Act, e.g. longterm capacity building in water and sanitation, not disaster response or Iraq/Afghanistan.

So I agree with you that your case is 'weakened' by the good news of the $300m, but there are still many barriers or hurdles to make it through before we can rest.

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Yes people just hit me with this evidence losing us quarters we didn't expect this and were shocked to find this out!

Anonymous said...

Well as you know, The WPFA isn't Africa specific, it is designed to alleviate water stressed countries within the whole world. The Omnibus bill only give $125mil to Africa, let alone Sub Saharan Africa.I guess they would run a colonialism K on that, but then again, they could always do that. So you could still go with your WFPA plan and say that only a fraction of that $125 is going to SSA, the area of greatest need. Plus even if you were to give $125 mil to SSA only, which is not specified by the plan, you could argue that $125 would be a good start, but more funded would be needed. Also you could say use this plan to your advantage. If they try to argue on how congress wouldn't fund it because of bad advantages, clearly this example shows that congress would pass additional funding towards the WFPA. Well i suppose they could run an Spending DA, but those could be used on almost any argument that costs any amount of money.

steven said...

hey hey.. john oldfield. watsup.. what is your qualifications for this blog? because.. i'm doing debate... and i'm looking for cards to make my "plan" inherent... and your blog would totally kick ass... but i need to know how qualified you are.. like... phd health professor? or something?

steven said...

oh and also.. fyi.. ur response to matthew is a lil off

the water for the poor act does not provide direct drinking water, it only provides a system and coordination, which has a totatally different money-use system. so 300m may be enough for the system to be efficient even if it does not buy everyone direct water.

Anonymous said...

he's a pro baller :p

John Oldfield said...

Hey Steven

I've got a brief bio up here: