Senator John Kerry will file legislation to funnel U.S. aid to Egyptian and Tunisian entrepreneurs to boost their economies and nurture democracy – but do so without stirring antagonism toward the United States.
In the wake of massive protests that unseated the governments of both countries, the legislation will create two funds that will be “an investment in the future of the Arab world and in the future of America’s national security,” the Massachusetts Democrat said.
“They will tell people across the Arab world that the United States is willing to help them build strong economies and strong democracies," Kerry said.
Kerry has previously called for such aid, but the announcement alongside Senator John McCain of Arizona, a Republican, and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an Independent, filled in some details.
The bill, which is still being finalized, would create two funds: the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund and the Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund. The first would steer between $40 million and $50 million to Egypt, and the second would sent between $10 million and $20 million to Tunisia.
The initial funding would come from existing programs in the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Like similar funds set up for former Soviet satellite countries after the Cold War, the funds would provide capital to new businesses, Kerry said.
Kerry said the effort will not be intrusive or interventionist – “it’s a matter of capital, and they need capital in these various countries,” he said. But he acknowledged that the effort must win over skeptics wary of U.S. meddling.
“We are asking the question (of ) how can we help in ways that don’t create counter-feelings to what we’re trying to achieve,” he said. “We’re listening – very, very carefully.”
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.