Contrary to the impression given in John Goshko's article {Jan. 13}, "earmarking" by Congress can benefit developing countries. Mr. Goshko's article analyzed only one of three foreign aid accounts, the economic support fund (ESF). Military and development aid accounts are also part of the total foreign aid budget. The trend over the past decade had been to increase military aid while reducing development assistance. To consider only ESF and not the other accounts distorts an already distorted picture.

The House Select Committee on Hunger has supported specific earmarks with humanitarian goals and found them to be effective. This year, for example, $42 million was earmarked for basic education in the Third World. Data show that primary education is associated with increased productivity, improved health status and lower population growth. Nevertheless, the Agency for International Development has reduced assistance to basic education over the last decade. We are confident the earmark will prove helpful.

The committee has also urged earmarks for child survival programs that provide support for immunization, oral rehydration, breast feeding and other primary health-care initiatives. This kind of aid has wide public support in the United States and has continued to increase over time. In the same way the committee successfully recommended earmarks for Vitamin A supplementation based on increasing evidence that it decreases child mortality.

Earmarks are not always the answer. Congress appropriated $590 million for FY88 for sub-Saharan Africa in the development and ESF accounts, allowing the Agency for International Development to choose where and how to spend the money. In this region, where food deficits and extreme poverty are the norm and there are few development resources, it makes sense to be flexible.

TONY P. HALL

U.S. Representative (D-Ohio) Chairman, International Task Force

MICKEY LELAND

U.S. Representative (D-Texas) Chairman, Select Committee on Hunger Washington