The United States Senate has approved the nomination of Rajiv Shah to head the US Agency for International Development (USAID), making him the highest ranking Indian American in the Obama administration.
The Senate unanimously Thursday confirmed the nomination of Shah, 36, and some three dozen other officials nominated by President Barack Obama before taking its Christmas break.
Shah’s confirmation puts him at the helm of the aid agency charged with spurring development around the world. USAID is expected to play a key role as the Obama administration has made development a key tool of its foreign policy.
Mr. Shah “brings fresh ideas and the dedication and impressive background necessary to help guide USAID as it works to achieve this important goal,” said Mr. Obama in a statement announcing his nomination in November. “I look forward to working with Rajiv in the months and years ahead.”
The mission of USAID is to advance America’s interests by strengthening our relationships abroad,” he said of the agency, which has more than 6,800 people working in some 80 countries worldwide.
USAID, formally part of the State Department, manages the bulk of US international aid with a budget of some 53.9 billion dollars for 2010, up nine percent over 2009.
Mr. Shah, a medical doctor, currently serves as chief scientist for the US Department of Agriculture and previously worked as director for agricultural development at the foundation headed by Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife.
By nominating Mr. Shah to lead the USAID, Mr. Obama has reaffirmed that development must be a core pillar of American foreign policy, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcoming Shah’s nomination.
“Mr. Raj will bring an impressive record of accomplishment and a deep understanding of what works in development to his role as USAID Administrator,” she said. “I look forward to working closely with him to advance the President’s agenda and to elevate and integrate development in our foreign policy.”
Having championed Mr. Obama’s global food security initiative, Mr. Shah is “a leader in the development community, an innovative and results-oriented manager, and someone who understands the importance of providing people around the world with the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty and chart their own destinies,” she said.
“A trained medical doctor and health economist, Mr. Raj has the skills and experience to lead a reinvigorated USAID in the 21st century,” Mrs. Clinton said.
“He has led and worked with many of the initiatives that are defining best practice in the field of development.”
He has a record of “delivering results in both the private and public sectors, forging partnerships around the world, especially in Africa and Asia,” she added.
Prior to his work at the Gates foundation, Mr. Shah worked on health care policy for the 2000 presidential campaign of former vice president Al Gore.
He is a co-founder of Health Systems Analytics and Project IMPACT for South Asian Americans. In addition, he has served as a policy aide in the British Parliament and worked at the World Health Organization.
Mr. Shah earned his MD from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and his Master of Science in health economics at the Wharton School of Business. He has attended the London School of Economics and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.