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Focus on poverty urged as aid budget increases

Focus on poverty urged as aid budget increases

Increases to New Zealand’s international aid budget announced yesterday are welcome, but there is concern about whether the money will reach the most vulnerable, says international development agency Oxfam.

This year’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) budget announcement included an additional $220 million to be spent over the next three years, bringing the budget to $603 million, up from $588 million last year.

Overseas aid has a vital role to play in enabling developing countries to reduce poverty. It is intended to help developing countries become active and equal participants in our global economy and contribute to social progress. In the long term a thriving, healthy and economically viable Pacific will benefit New Zealanders and our own economy.

As a percentage of Gross National Income, the usual measure for comparing aid, the 2015-2016 aid budget is still below 0.3 percent, falling well short of the 0.7 percent that New Zealand promised to be giving by 2015.

“We welcome this increase in New Zealand’s aid budget, but we are disappointed that New Zealand is still a long way off the 0.7 percent of GNI target that it signed up to 15 years ago. The United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg and Sweden have all reached this goal, some after the global financial crisis, and we should be striving to do the same,” said Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier.

“Economic growth is an important part of reducing poverty, but if it isn’t designed to also help the poorest and most vulnerable then it can result in increased inequalities. Aid focused on large infrastructure projects and development of the private sector will not reach those needing social welfare when elderly, sick or disabled, or children needing access to education.

“Poverty reduction is integral to effective economic growth. It can’t happen without improvements in education and health, as well as women’s equal participation and democratic processes that challenge corruption and support good governance. These vital components to tackling inequalities are what should be driving our aid programme,” said Le Mesurier.


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