ADS 312.5.3 b

In the small world of international development (and it really is a TINY world where everyone knows or knows of everyone else), the specifics of such code talk may only be familiar with those that work on grants and contracts, particularly those dealing with the US government international development aid wing (USAID) to which this specific code comes from.

As I mentioned on Monday, US foreign assistance is 'tied-aid' ensuring that while helping those in need, 'we' (the American big business with strong lobbyist tax payer) ensure that some of that cash comes right back to us, even at the potential harm of our fellow citizens.

Let's take the case of motor vehicles. Vehicles, in USAID world, are among a list of restricted items for which you need special permission to purchase. This makes sense as USAID considers this a luxury item that the tax payer shouldn't have to pay for. But for the most part, in order to accomplish activities in the field, an organization usually requires at minimum 1 vehicle (most have 'fleets') so they are always budgeted in and eventually purchased. In the case of some countries, think Afghanistan and Iraq, a regular Chevy just doesn't cut it when bullets are flying about. So in these cases you need armored vehicles. Now remember a few things:

1. The rules say you MUST buy a US company or go through a LOT of paper work to get permission to buy a non-U.S. modeled vehicle.
2. Projects generally don't go on forever, they usually last no more than 2 years at one stretch.
3. Not everyone in countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan are so happy with U.S. presence in their country. These people - to paraphrase the words of our politicians - 'hate America, our values and beliefs and they want to destroy us.'
4. And finally, just like the military personnel, those foreigners trying to bring about 'aid' and 'development' in such places would also prefer to come home in one piece.

So let's look at a normal scenario, the US government is spending several million on a 12 month project in Afghanistan. US citizens are working on this project and they require an armored vehicle to move around 'safely' (an armored vehicle still won't help if there is a big bomb). But since this armored vehicle will have the American manufacturer logo on it, those passengers are at a higher risk of being attacked by those people who 'hate America.' This of course is if they are even able to get such a vehicle which, in new version, is generally made-to-order and can take anywhere for 9-12 months by which time their project will be over. The process to get a waiver to use a non-US manufacturer would also mean that activities could be stalled for up to 6 months during which time reporting such as 'we can't get activities done because it is unsafe to leave our compound while you process approval to buy a vehicle we already budgeted for and you approved our budget' is NOT a legitimate line to provide to the hand that both feeds and cripples you!

THESE are the types of details that really get my blood boiling, but yet are so interesting to learn the logic behind (because committees of people actually think really hard to come up with such rules).

No comments: