Indian American Shah takes charge of USAID

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Washington, Dec. 25 (ANI): The US Senate has confirmed Rajiv Shah, a food security expert, to head USAID, a key development agency.

America's top international aid and development agency got a Christmas present Thursday when the Senate confirmed Shah, President Obama's nomination to head the US Agency for International Development.

Shah takes the helm of USAID, which has been without a chief since the outset of the Obama administration, at a crucial moment.

US foreign assistance is expected to double to over 50 billion dollars a year over the next half-decade, in particular with boosts in development outlays to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

At the same time, USAID enters the period of growth a weakened agency, having lost its independence and having been incorporated into the State Department in a post-cold-war reorganization of foreign aid.

Aid experts welcome Shah's confirmation but generally acknowledge the difficult task before him.

"As he moves into this new position, Shah's challenges are great," said Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, in a statement.

He said Shah will need to reassert the leadership role of USAID, rebuild its staff, and strengthen its ability to deliver concrete results, he added,

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton - to whom Shah will report - said in a recent speech that Shah would "have a seat at the table" as US development policy is revamped, and she went so far as to pledge that "together, we will ensure that USAID is once again the premier development agency in the world." (ANI)

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