New Delhi: Steep cuts proposed by the US government in its 2018 budget for international assistance programmes could impact global development and squeeze aid to countries like India, said Mark Suzman, chief strategy officer, and president, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In India to attend the African Development Bank meeting in Ahmedabad earlier this week, Suzman said the US budget cuts of the order of some 29% in the area of aid had been proposed. This however presented countries like India with challenges as well as opportunities to take on a lead role in sharing resources and best practices in areas like financial inclusion with countries like those in Africa, he said.

“The US government gives $ 30 billion in aid. While this is less than 1% of the total federal budget, this is not a gap that philanthropy can fill," Suzman told reporters in New Delhi on Thursday.

“The (budget) reduction hasn’t happened yet but significant cuts of about 29% have been proposed. We believe that this may have potential long term implications for global development. At a time when rich countries are more inward looking it is both a challenge as well as an opportunity for countries like India to provide a global leadership role in sharing of resources, knowledge and best practices," Suzman said.

“Clearly it is a challenging environment. Unfortunately, many people do not understand how much progress has been made in areas like poverty eradication or reducing child mortality. We are seeing success through reduction in global poverty, where the number has been cut by half; this is of immense value and demonstrates the value and impact of foreign aid. So we remain cautiously hopeful," Suzman said.

In India, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works in the areas of maternal and child health, infectious diseases like tuberculosis (TB), sanitation, agricultural development and financial services for the poor. India can take the lead in sharing its best practices in areas like polio eradication and HIV/AIDS prevention, Suzman said. He also commended India’s ‘Swach Bharat’ or Clean India programme that aims to make the Asian giant open defecation free in the next few years.

A report in the New York Times earlier this week said US President Donald Trump planned to unveil a $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 that would cut deeply into programs for the poor, from health care and food stamps to student and disability payments.

Other news reports said a 62-page budget outline showed an overall cut to the international affairs programs of the State Department and the US Agency for International Department (USAID) of 31 % from current levels, justified as being necessary to partially offset a massive $54 billion increase proposed for defence spending. According to a Reuters news agency report, the Trump administration has asked the US Congress for a 28 % or $10.9 billion, cut in State Department funding and other international programs to help pay for a 10 % or $54 billion hike in military spending next year.

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