17 Oct 2008

World financial state makes NZ aid increase vital - Greens

8:53 pm on 17 October 2008

The Green Party says the global financial crisis has made it even more important for New Zealand to honour its commitment to increase its international aid contribution to 0.7% of GDP by 2015.

Representatives from the Greens - as well as Labour, National and United Future - spoke at an event in Wellington on Friday 17 October to mark International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

The comments follow a study released by Oxfam on Thursday 16 October, which indicates the rising cost of basic foods has pushed an extra 190 million people into poverty this year.

Successive governments over several decades have pledged to increase New Zealand's international aid contribution to 0.7% of Gross Domestic Product.

New Zealand currently contributes 0.3% of GDP and that will increase to 0.35% by 2010.

Green Party MP Keith Locke told a crowd gathered in Wellington's Civic Square that the global financial crisis will hurt those in developing countries the most, so it is even more important for New Zealand to honour its commitment.

He says several Scandinavian countries are over the 0.7% mark already.

Mr Locke says the Greens want legislation with a specific timetable year by year in the next parliament.

Other parties

United Future's candidate for Rongotai in Wellington, Karuna Muthu, says having grown up in India, he has seen more poverty than most.

He says United Future wants New Zealand's aid contribution increased to 0.5% immediately, and 0.7% by 2015.

The National Party's candidate for Wellington Central, Stephen Franks, says while New Zealand's aid levels seem meagre at 0.3% of GDP, it is only a small part of the country's total contribution.

"One of the sad facts around aid is that a good part of it is rendered useless by war, civil war, and corruption, and possibly the most important role that we are performing at the moment in aid terms may be our commitment to peacekeepers. It may be our people in East Timor, our people in the Solomon Islands."

Mr Franks says New Zealand needs to be aware of the effect of its other policies on world poverty.

He says the biofuels legislation has probably done more to increase the starvation and poverty among New Zealand's Asian neighbours than anything New Zealand could ever repair in the next year or two.

However Mr Locke says New Zealand's biofuel legislation excludes fuels that comes from plantations that undermine the local agricultural economy.

Labour list MP Charles Chauvel told the crowd New Zealand is a wealthy country and he too wants its aid contribution to reach the target of 0.7% of GDP.