Cutting aid in the name of economic development
After eight years, Murray McCully wants to dissolve NZAID (the country's disaster relief and aid funding body) inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) – as well as redistribute funding. Most NZAID Official Development Assistance is spent within the Pacific region but McCully wants to ensure there is even more concentration of NZAID money on the Pacific.
So, he cuts $1.95 million a year off a Pacific NGO collective's budget. Sounds like this agreement is history, then.
McCully made the decisions in secret and didn’t bother to tell any of the aid agencies and stakeholders affected, leaving the Opposition to do it. He didn’t even put it in his weekly newsletter. In fact, he isn’t writing his weekly newsletter because, as his spokesperson told me “the
At least the burdens and baubles are not "precluding the possibility" of Heather Roy from doing her weekly newsletter – or posting on her Facebook site. She’s the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and would have had responsibility for the aid budget but this government made it the responsibility of the Minister. But I digress.
NZAID was set up with a central goal of eliminating poverty after independent development experts reviewing the original aid programme found problems with it, like poor policy and lack of clear goals. McCully wants to change the focus from poverty elimination to trade and economic development and reduce the trade imbalance that currently exists between New Zealand and our Pacific neighbours. In other words he wants to change the focus from aid to foreign policy, with a focus on trade.
So what’s the difference? Aid is about helping people work their way out of poverty, whereas foreign policy is about pursuing New Zealand's interests abroad. There can be a conflict when aid agencies like World Vision are attempting to assist people via a policy framework that is more about New Zealand’s interests: The needy lose out.
The Government has committed .35% of our gross national income (GNI) in overseas aid by 2010. The international target is 0.7%. Economic development in poor countries cannot be sustained unless there is a focus on poverty elimination. What happens if there is not? Well, aid money, instead of supporting a road to get the produce from impoverished farmers to market, is spent on a road to the Prime Minister's house. Don’t snigger, this has reportedly already happened in at least one country. Is that the sort of thing we want our taxpayer dollars through NZAID spent on?
Read more on the Don't Corrupt Aid site – a campaign to keep New Zealand’s international aid focussed on addressing poverty.