New Zealand called on to allocate more to foreign aid
While the New Zealand government allocation to foreign aid is up in this year's Budget an aid advocacy group, New Zealand Aid and Development Dialogues says it can and should do better.
The New Zealand Aid and Development Dialogues group says the New Zealand government needs to allocate more funding to foreign aid.
The group says the government can be commended for a slightly higher aid spend in this year's Budget, up just over US$7 million to US$465 million.
But ADDs spokesperson Terrence Wood told Don Wiseman it could and should do more for the poor people of the world.
WOOD: You can look at it as a slightly glass half-full versus glass half-empty type situation. On one hand, there are European countries who, in the face of large deficits, are cutting their aid programmes fairly substantially. And given that we've had the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand and given that we are running deficits of our own, the government should be commended for at least not doing that. On the other hand, when you look at the fiscal forecast produced by the treasury associated with the budget, we're actually projected to return to surpluses fairly quickly, indeed quicker than Australia. And when you look at what Australia has done, with a pretty bold increase in their aid spend, you'd have to think that, if there was sufficient political will in New Zealand right now we could be doing at least a little bit more to help people in poorer parts of the Pacific and other parts of the world.
WISEMAN: The contrast with Australia is remarkable, isn't it, because Australia is spending something like 11 times what New Zealand is spending now.
WOOD: Yeah, yeah. Their aid increase over the next financial year is larger than our entire aid budget. Of course, the contrast does seem partially from the fact that Australia is a larger country and has a bigger economy. But on the other hand, they've had a broadly bipartisan agreement to moving themselves up the ranks of aid donors and becoming a much more significant aid player. And that contrasts with New Zealand, where stagnation seems to be the order of the day.
WISEMAN: Yes. Well, the government did indicate two years ago, and repeated it last year, that there wasn't likely to be much significant growth over subsequent years.
WOOD: Yes, that's true. It certainly doesn't come as a shock to anyone. Nevertheless, as I guess the Australian example illustrates, we could be doing better if we were really committed to development in the Pacific and other poorer parts of the world.
WISEMAN: One of the oddities about the New Zealand aid budget is there was a substantial amount that was not spent last year. What do you make of that?
WOOD: Yes. Without being privy to actual workings of the aid programme. But one of the critiques that people in the NGO community and certainly we folks at NZADDs have been offering over the way Minister McCully has run the aid programme has been that he's been a pretty capricious minister in charge of aid. He changes his mind rapidly. He gives very little certainty to the aid programme about what they can spend money on. And that makes it very hard, both for the government aid programme and also for NGOs' plan for the future. As I'm sure you'd appreciate, good aid work is stuff that takes time and involves building relationships and carefully planning the work that you do. So he's sort of, through this approach to things, made it very hard for people to do their work. And my suspicion is that the underspend stems from the fact that aid programme staff have been working in an environment of considerable uncertainty and simply haven't been able to plan in advance in time to get the money out the door. And that's why the aid programme has really quite markedly underspent in the previous financial year.
WISEMAN: What happens to that money?
WOOD: It's going to be rolled forward. That's good news, right? The underspend came at the end of a three-year budget allocation, and as best we can tell from the budget documents, the money that wasn't spent will be reallocated over the next three years. And, indeed, that's the only reason why we see any small increase over the next three years, is that money being taken and added to the already budgeted aid money.
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