|2:25 PM EDT||
Steny Hoyer, D-MD 5th
Mr. HOYER. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me this time. This is an important bill. The United States is the leader of the free world, and, frankly, the United States is far behind many in the industrialized world in investing in the peace and security of the international community.
Mr. Chairman, for several years, however, I have expressed serious concerns about the amount of dollars that we give to Egypt. Egypt is a friend and an ally. Egypt is number two in terms of the dollars that we invest, both in military and economic aid. However, Egypt has one of the largest and most modern militaries in the Middle East, with approximately $2.4 billion in annual defense spending. More than half of that funding, $1.3 billion in this bill, is provided by the United States.
Notwithstanding that, however, I do not believe that Egypt and its leadership is conducting itself in a way consistent with its alliance with this country. Nearly one out of five Egyptians live in poverty; yet we give very little economic aid, relatively speaking. Roughly half of Egypt's adults are illiterate. Unemployment is in double figures, and the country has a per capita income of just $700 per year.
In this context, Mr. Chairman, I am concerned that the United States provides almost three times the amount of military assistance to Egypt than we provide in economic assistance, $1.3 billion to $495 million in this bill.
That is not my principal concern. My principal concern is the relationship between the extraordinary investment that America makes in Egypt and the lack of cooperation as it relates to some of their policies not only on the military side, but on the human rights and discrimination side.
Regional stability and the efforts to stem the development of terrorist organizations are served not only by providing for Egypt's military strength, but also by ensuring prosperity and economic opportunities for the people of Egypt, and having Egypt cooperate in bringing down the level of hatred, discrimination, and prejudice in its own country and in the Middle East. Mr. Chairman, I would hope that we would make that message clear to our friends in Egypt.
I offered an amendment in committee. That amendment would have shifted $40 million from military assistance to the economic assistance. That, in my opinion, would have had the effect of educating more Egyptian children, bringing more Egyptians out of poverty, perhaps investing greater amounts in the economic development and job creation seen in Egypt. That would, in my opinion, have been a very positive step forward.
My friend, the chairman of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations urged me not to do that. And as a result of his urging, I withdrew that amendment.
One of the reasons I withdrew that amendment is because Egypt is an important ally. But I would hope that our Egyptian friends would address the issues of anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholic/Christian, prejudice, and destabilization within their own country and within the Middle East. We need to continue to send that message.