Only weeks after the Obama administration denounced efforts by Congressional Republicans to slash US contributions to the United Nations, the world body announced a proposed budget for the next two years of $5.2 billion, including average salaries currently at $119,000 a year.

 The US representative for management and reform to the UN, Joseph Torsella was quick to criticize the proposal (September 29) saying that in a time of global financial crisis, ”it is not what any family, government or business around the world would recognize as a real belt-tightening.”

The Republican bill introduced in August in the US House of Representatives would withhold half of the $3 billion annual US contribution to the UN budget unless the dues collection process is made voluntary. The UN budget is shared by all 193 member states with each country’s assessment based on its economy. The United States is the largest single contributor, paying 22 percent of the regular budget.

The Republican bill is likely to pass in the House but is expected to face opposition in the Senate and a veto by President Obama whose administration called the bill “backward” and saying it would undercut American standing in the world.

But that was before the current UN budget proposal. Torsella, who has defended the role of the UN in the past, said the current proposal could push the UN budget for 2012-13 as high as $5.5 billion with an “expected onslaught of add-ons”.  He was also critical of the current plan elimination of just 44 positions from a work force of 10,307 - a mere 0.4 percent.

“It is our obligation to our taxpayers to do more with less in Washington and here at the UN,” Torsella said, adding that the Obama administration is calling “for a comprehensive, department-by-department, line-by-line review of this budget” and a new budget approval process.  He said that in today’s world, all countries must do the same and cited efforts in countries like Scotland, Mexico, Botswana and Singapore.