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Budget Disappointment as ODA Stays the Same

Friday 19 May, 2006

Budget Disappointment as ODA Stays the Same

As a justice, peace and development agency, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand was hoping Finance Minister, Dr Michael Cullen might have been more like Santa and less like Scrooge when it came to announcing rates for Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) in yesterday’s Budget.

Instead, the news that ODA would remain at 0.27 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) with a nominal rise to 0.28 in 07/08 was very disappointing although sadly, not surprising.

Caritas Director, Mike Smith pointed out that we have only nine years before 2015, the year the government promised they would reach the allocation of 0.7 percent of GNI to ODA. “At current rates it is clear this target won’t come close to being reached.

“Although we have our needs within New Zealand, each year millions of people are dying around the world because they don’t have access to the basis necessities of life. Our government has a duty not only to care for the vulnerable here in New Zealand but a duty to do its fair share at the international level. New Zealand is simply not doing enough,” said Mike Smith.

“Caritas is disappointed in the government’s lack of commitment, especially when the government acknowledges the need to fund development programmes, making special mention of countries in the Pacific. In his Budget speech the Minister of Finance spoke about national identity and the giving of foreign aid as being a part of that. The 0.27 rate shows our national identity is threatening to become synonymous with broken promises and stinginess.”

In terms of Caritas’ domestic advocacy work, the figures touted in Working for Families looked impressive with $1.85 billion allocated, but this delivers only on previous commitments without addressing Caritas concerns at the discriminatory effect of the In-Work payment, which does not address the poverty of children whose caregivers cannot reasonably be expected to work, such as grandparents caring for grandchildren.

“Although this money had already been earmarked in previous Budgets we are pleased the government is fulfilling its promises and continuing to deliver what they began in 2004 in terms of assisting families, many of whom have real need,” said Mike Smith.

Mike Smith said while some may be disappointed about the lack of tax cuts, Caritas does not favour measures which would come at the cost of cuts to key services such as healthcare or education. “The government heeded calls from church and community organisations to address child poverty. While we might quibble about the details, in general we support a targeted tax relief package that assists those most in need.”

ENDS

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