A USAID program we can support, for a change

We don’t mind the existence of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as long as its mission is seen as part of our national security apparatus.  On the contrary, almost all of its programs futilely ram government-centered bureaucratic “economic development” programs down the throats of third-world societies that are laughably unable to cope with them.  The result is, inevitably, utter waste, incompetence, and corruption.  (We once worked on a typically inept USAID program at the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology in Afghanistan in efforts to improve automation of government services—except that most government buildings lacked electricity and most government employees were illiterate in every language.)

Here is one decent example of a USAID program that seems to have the right goals:  creating alternatives to terrorism in the southern Philippines by training locals to work as call center agents.  It brings the added value of benefiting U.S. companies and maybe even exposing the area to some positive American cultural influence.

Predictably, leftists and protectionists decry the effort as undermining jobs at home.  Memo to the opportunist politicians who are slightly unattuned to business realities:  call center operators in the Philippines making $200 a month are not a threat to U.S. workers.  Those jobs are gone.

We can have a legitimate debate about whether the U.S. should be spending any money on such a program given our fiscal straits, but, if we’re doing to have a USAID at all, this seems like one of its better efforts.


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