US House lifts rights requirements on aid to Egypt in draft budget
Courtesy: Spokesperson for Armed Forces Facebook page
 

The draft budget released June 22 by the United States House of Representatives calls for US$1.45 billion in military economic aid to Egypt, with no restrictions based on human rights or democratization.

According to the draft bill, funds can be made available to Egypt as long as the Secretary of State certifies that Egypt is “sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States” and “meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.”

The draft bill also requires that the Secretary of State must submit a report every 90 days detailing steps Egypt’s government has taken to advance democracy and human rights, to implement reforms to protect freedom of expression, association and assembly and the improve the transparency and accountability of security forces. These reports can be classified “if necessary,” and the draft bill does not specify any benchmarks or any consequences if Egypt’s government does not progress in these areas.

The bill says funds for Egypt can be made available “notwithstanding any other provision of law.”

The House proposes maintaining military aid to Egypt at US$1.3 billion for the 2017 fiscal year. The only restriction placed on this aid is a requirement that the Secretary of State submit a report on the impacts of restructuring military assistance to Egypt. This follows the decision last year to phase out cash-flow financing for Egypt and channel funding towards equipment in four categories: counterterrorism, border security, maritime security and Sinai security.

The draft budget also provides up to US$150 million in economic support funds, to be directed to democracy programs and programs that support development and security in the Sinai. These funds cannot go into Egypt’s general budget unless the Secretary of State certifies that Egypt’s government is “taking consistent and effective steps to stabilize the economy and implement market-based economic reforms.”

The allocations proposed by the House are in-line with the budget request from the White House, which also called for US$1.3 billion in military aid and US$150 million in economic support.

The next step in the US budget process is for the appropriations committee of the House of Representatives to hold a hearing and debate on the specifics of the draft bill, which is expected to take place in July.

A parallel process happens in the other house of congress, the US Senate. The Senate’s Foreign Operations subcommittee is scheduled to begin debate on its budget proposal on June 28.

After both houses of congress complete their versions of the budget, they must reconcile differences in the bills before passing them onto the president for ratification. The new fiscal year begins on October 1.

It is still possible for substantial changes to be made before the final appropriations bill is approved. The escalating crackdown on rights activists in Egypt, as well as reports indicating that the Egyptian government has at times obstructed US-sponsored development and democratization programs failed to cooperate with programs to monitor how military aid is used, could lead lawmakers to reduce aid or demand stricter conditions.

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