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Overseas aid spend shows flagging commitment to the poor

24 May 2011

Budget: Overseas aid spend shows flagging commitment to the poor

Caritas - the Catholic aid and development agency - says the government's flagging commitment to overseas aid indicated in Budget figures is regrettable.

Last week's Budget projects a drop in New Zealand's overseas aid in the 2012/13 year to $570 million compared to $586 million allocated for next year. While increases are planned beyond that, the government is pushing out by two years its plan to reach $600 million - now targeted for 2014, rather than 2012.

However, Caritas International Programmes Manager Tara D'Sousa says it's uncertain whether the government can actually deliver on the planned expenditure, when the 2009/10 budget was underspent, and there is uncertainty over some 2010/11 allocations.

'In addition, although government budget documents might say that budget increases for overseas aid will be based on "performance and delivery of outcomes", the figures that matter internationally are overseas aid expressed as a percentage of Gross National Income (GNI).

'Sadly, since reaching 0.3 percent in 2008, we have declined to 0.28 in 2009, and 0.26 in 2010, according to OECD figures. The international target is 0.7 percent of GNI for a developed country such as ours.' ew Zealand's commitment is falling well behind other countries such as Australia.

Ms D'Sousa said it's also of concern that overall management costs of New Zealand's aid programme increased dramatically following reintegration of the semi-autonomous NZAID agency into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Budget figures show $24 million in 'overhead and overseas costs' have been transferred in the present financial year 2010/11 from the Foreign Affairs vote to the Overseas Aid vote, supposedly to allocate such costs 'consistently' across the Ministry after the reintegration of NZAID.

However, this has led to ongoing management costs of over $60 million a year for the overseas iad development programme, compared to $38 million in the 2009/10 financial year. Caritas is asking, and other taxpayers should be asking, where are the cost savings from the reintegration?

'Our international Caritas network has just opened its General Assembly in Rome around a theme of "One Human Family, Zero Poverty" ' said Ms D'Sousa. 'We hold that the continued existence of extreme poverty is totally unacceptable, and we wish to hold governments to account on that.'

The global economic crisis has been cited as a factor in limiting governments' expenditure. But it has also pushed a further 55 million more people into extreme poverty - defined as living on less than US$1.25 a day.

'The goods of the earth are intended for all to share. Every dollar diverted from effective aid represents another day's delay in getting justice for the poor. Caritas calls on the New Zealand Government to make a stronger commitment to poor and vulnerable communities around the world,' said Ms D'Sousa.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis , a confederation of 165 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.


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