Acting Deputy Administrator John Barsa’s Remarks at Economic Growth Policy Launch

Speeches Shim

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Thank you, Dan, for the warm welcome. It’s a pleasure to speak with you all today.

The world is experiencing an unprecedented shift in the global economic landscape. With global supply chains disrupted by the pandemic, e-commerce and digital platforms have become even more important for small and medium enterprises in the countries where we work.

As our partner countries adapt, the U.S. is not the only country offering assistance. Malign actors continue to provide funding, but unlike us, their assistance does not come with good intentions. It’s based on a calculation of strategic dependency. Malign actors are exploiting vulnerable countries by offering one-sided deals solely designed to further their own interests, not to support the world’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

Especially in light of rising debt levels, our programs must focus on inclusive, sustainable, and resilient economic growth that increases domestic resources and reduces dependency.

Here at USAID, we promote fair and transparent trade as a driver of mutual prosperity. Economic growth bolsters global stability, and it mitigates many of the conditions that contribute to violent extremism. We recognize that an emphasis on human rights, individual liberty, and democratic accountability is a core foundation for economic growth and development.

Economic growth is critical for countries to lead their own development, where they plan, finance, and implement solutions to their own challenges with long-term sustainability.

That’s why, today, I’m proud to launch USAID’s new Economic Growth Policy, which lays out our development model and advocates for an enterprise-driven approach. Our model is more effective at helping partner countries drive their own development, in comparison to models that are state-led, less inclusive, and less transparent.

Building on our Economic Growth Strategy from 2008, the Policy emphasizes that economic growth — through greater productivity at the enterprise level — is the most effective way to foster self-reliance and end the need for foreign assistance. The new Policy complements our Private Sector Engagement Policy, and it focuses our assistance to pursue market-based solutions and investment with the private sector.

USAID’s private sector partnerships leverage both financial resources and technical expertise. And other U.S. government partners, including the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, will be critical to this Policy’s success.

USAID has proven that we can support the reforms that make even more private investment possible.

For example, between 2010 and 2018, our trade and investment hubs created more than $600 million in investment opportunities for the private sector in Africa. For every dollar spent on trade programs, the hubs leveraged nine dollars in private investment. This trade and investment grows the U.S. economy by generating new markets for American goods and services. In fact, American-led companies exported nearly $27 billion in goods to Africa in 2019.

A key principle of the new Policy is to equip our partner countries to self-finance their development activities. Throughout history, we’ve seen countries that once received foreign assistance ultimately develop the resources and commitment to finance and address their own challenges.

This sustained economic growth will depend on systemic change. With the new Policy, USAID will focus on reforms that increase revenue generation, cut waste, and reduce any burdens for the private sector to thrive.

Strengthening market systems, improving policies and governance, and creating opportunities for low-income communities can improve the lives of everyone, rather than only benefiting a few. Broad-based, private sector-led growth directly increases revenues for the public sector to invest in social and infrastructure projects, which are essential for further prosperity.

Our partner countries cannot be self-reliant when large segments of the population are shut out of the economy. The new Policy pledges that USAID programs will ensure that there are economic opportunities for groups who are marginalized, with a strong focus on women.

In the past few years, the White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP) has been the first whole-of-government approach to advance the economic empowerment of women globally. USAID advances W-GDP’s goals by addressing the barriers that women face, to ensure that they have the same market opportunities as men. This work often involves changing outdated laws, enforcing existing rights, upgrading employer practices, and engaging both men and women to rethink restrictive social norms.

Our new Economic Growth Policy further supports W-GDP by promoting best practices to integrate women into the formal workforce — making it easier to successfully launch and grow a business, as well as increasing women’s access to and control over financial assets.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how much the world depends on individual countries for a wide range of products and technologies. As international businesses diversify their sourcing in response, this moment is a unique opportunity for the countries where we work.

In addition, rapidly growing debt is becoming unsustainable in many of these countries. USAID must support our partner countries to more effectively manage debt and public finances with transparency, especially since effective fiscal responses to the pandemic are critical to avoid the worst economic impacts.

A fundamental priority for USAID has been to demonstrate the value of our programs to American taxpayers. In recent years, a majority of the growth in U.S. exports has been to countries where USAID works. Our investments in facilitating trade have been mutually beneficial, supporting jobs here in the U.S. as well as abroad.

Ultimately, we all benefit when USAID invests in trade and investment opportunities for shared prosperity. Growing economies with more prosperous citizens increases demand for American goods and services, and a level playing field offers new opportunities for U.S. companies abroad.

While the journey to self-reliance will look different in the countries where we work, a common thread is the spirit of people everywhere to be self-reliant.

We invite our partners and other donors to join us in promoting economic growth as an indispensable step along the way. Thank you.