NZ survey finds political leaders agree on aid boost
A survey of New Zealand's political parties has found the vast majority of parties agree the country's aid budget is too low should be increased.
A survey of New Zealand's political parties has found the vast majority agree the country's aid budget is far too low and must be increased.
The Council for International Development put five questions to 14 political parties who are contesting the upcoming general election.
The council is an umbrella organisation for the majority of New Zealand organisations working in the aid sector.
Seven of the 11 parties which responded to the survey say they are committed to reaching an aid target of 0.7% of Gross National Income which would more than double the present Official Development Assistance or ODA budget.
The council's director, Wren Green, told Amelia Langford New Zealand's aid budget is very low, especially in relation to other countries.
WREN GREEN: We did the survey because I think it's really important for voters to have an idea of what the different parties think should be done with regards oversees aid. Overseas aid is a very important part of foreign affairs. How much we spend, where we spend it and what we spend it on. So we wanted to inform the voters about what the parties thought their priorities were on those topics.
AMELIA LANGFORD: And what were some of the key findings of the survey?
WG: Well the key finding and the really heartening one for us was the commitment by the major parties, in fact the majority of the parties, particularly Labour, National and the Greens to strive to reach the international target of spending 0.7% of our gross national income on overseas development assistance and particularly it was great to see National commit to that because they've not committed to that over the last few years.
AL: Yes I did wonder about that. They say they support that yet they're in governement and they haven't done that.
WG: Well previous National governments have. But in their last few budgets they're separated out the vote ODA from that commitment so it's great to have that commitment back there. The next question is when are these parties going to reach that commitment and that's the next challenge to hold them to reach that commitment in a sensible and reasonable time frame.
AL: They have said their committed to reaching this internationally agreed target of 0.7% of gross national income. What are we at at the moment?
WG: We're wayl down at about 2.8% so on the OECD rankings we're really close to the bottom in terms of total amounts and we're certainly well down in terms of that percentage as well.
AL: How would that compare to Australia?
WG: In terms of our comparison with Australia we're way worse than Australia on a per capita basis and we're spending about half per capita than the Australians do so that means, how much are we spending? In terms of the average New Zealander, at the moment our expenditure on aid is the equivalent of one take-away coffee per fortnight per New Zealander and Australians are spending that much, a take-away coffee per week, per Australian and we would really like to see that amount doubled.
AL: And so what you'd like to see is the aid budget increased to $1billion a year?
WG: One billion is still going to take us to well below the 0.7% but an increase to $1billion over the next couple of years should be eminently doable.
AL: So it is heartening to see that these political parties say they are committed to the aid budget going up, but the proof is in the pudding isn't it?
WG: The proof is in the pudding. National and Labour have made those commitments in the past and neither National nor Labour have got anywhere near that amount. The highest level was 0.5% back in 1975 under Norman Kirk and we've been sliding slowly down ever since.
AL: How important is it that New Zealand does boost its aid budget?
WG: The importance of a boosted aid budget has a great deal to do with how New Zealand is perceived as a good global citizen, particularly in the Pacific and we need to really up our game.
AL: Because at the moment it's not a good look to have such a low aid budget compared to other countries?
WG: No it's not a good look. We're just above Luxembourg and Greece and Luxembourg only has half a million people so it's hardly surprising that we're spending more than they are and Greece has its own major economic problems as we know. So we do spend our aid budget well but we just need to have more of it to spend.
AL: And if the aid budget is increased does most of it go to the Pacific?
WG: Yes it does and that's perfectly sensible and reasonable. That's our strongest connection in a regional context and in all sorts of other ways so it certainly makes sense to have that as a priority target. And the parties who responded to our survey all say that as well, which is great.
AL: Anything in that survey that surprised you?
WG: The pleasant surprise in the survey results were the willingness of the major parties to move towards 0.7% and the willingness of most parties to start a cross party dialogue and that's very heartening and we'll be paying attention to that after the election whoever the next government is.
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