Tuesday, December 15, 2009


The Senate is expected to quickly confirm Dr. Rajiv Shah as the new USAID Administrator in a position reporting to Secretary of State Clinton. USAID is seen as stagnant and weak, and President Obama is banking on Shah's widely praised combination of youth and expertise to provide the agency with an invigorated mandate and increased prominence in the policymaking process. Dr. Shah will be called on to use his agriculture expertise namely to implement a landmark initiative to distribute $20 billion in agricultural development aid to the world's most food-insecure countries.

Currently the Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics, as well as the chief scientist, at the Department of Agriculture (USDA), Shah (a medical doctor) previously managed vaccine and most agricultural projects at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He has also worked at the World Health Organization and in Democratic party politics (Al Gore, Obama presidential campaign). He also shares a link to Undersecretary of State Jack Lew via a Gates Foundation colleague who later became Lew's deputy in the Clinton era.

Critics argue that for a number of years the USDA has been too present in decision-making at USAID and worry that Shah's link to USDA may cause him to promote its agenda during the course of his functions at AID.

- Amy Greene