More aid to the Pacific under NZ election spotlight
Calls for New Zealand to boost its development aid to the Pacific under the election spotlight in Auckland.
Calls for New Zealand to boost its development aid to the Pacific came under scrutiny in Auckland this week.
Roughly 150 aid workers, academics, consular staff and Pasifika leaders turned out to hear the four main political parties answer whether New Zealand has its priorities right for how to help its Pacific neighbours.
Karen Mangnall went along.
Poverty, malnutrition, poor health services and education are widespread in the Pacific. The region gets more than half of the 500 million dollars New Zealand spends each year on overseas aid, and the question came from the audience - is that enough?
QUESTION: We obviously want to discharge our duty in the Pacific as well as we can, how important is raising the aid budget in doing that? Second questions, how feasible is that politically?
Labour, the Greens, and New Zealand First all support boosting overseas aid to point 7 percent of gross national income. The New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, says there are many good reasons for that, but the most urgent is what he calls the "arc of instability".
WINSTON PETERS: On our borders that goes through parts of Polynesia and on to Melanesia, and if we don't get on top of that issue we'll live to seriously regret it one day. And if you go to persuade the housewife or the guy that's working two or three jobs, why they should help, that's how you're going to persuade them.
The Government says it will boost overseas aid by 220-million dollars over three years from next July.
Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, David Shearer, says throwing money at it won't help if it isn't well spent. He says the quality of aid is being compromised by the Government's change in priority from alleviating poverty to economic development.
DAVID SHEARER: I think there should be a cross party that we should be gradually increasing our aid budget over time. I actually think that's achievable, we could actually do that.
A Greens candidate and former Oxfam NZ executive director, Barry Coates, says how aid is spent can be more important than how much, but New Zealand still needs to spend more.
BARRY COATES: We're falling behind internationally in how much we are spending, we should spend more and I think in terms of cross party consensuses at least involving three of the parties on the panel, that we could work towards the UN target of point-seven percent of GNP.
The parliamentary private secretary for foreign affairs, John Hayes, says National intends to increase overseas aid but only if taxpayers can afford it and agree it's justified.
JOHN HAYES: I mean we're giving some between 17 and 19,000 dollars per person to every Niuean, we're giving 14 or 15,000 to every Tokelaun, that's more than the people in my village of Greytown get.
According to the 2014 Budget, overseas aid spending will increase to nearly 1.9 billion dollars over three years from next July - equivalent to just over a quarter of a percent of New Zealand's gross national income.
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