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NZ Mired Near Bottom of Class After Budget Cuts to Aid

For immediate release: Thursday May 24, 2012

Oxfam: New Zealand Mired Near Bottom of Class After Budget Cuts to Aid

New Zealand today failed to honour its promises to assist the poorest communities in the world work their way out of poverty by slashing $133 million from its Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) budget over the next three years, putting us even further behind OECD peers, says international development agency Oxfam.

The cuts come at a time when our Pacific neighbours and others in the developing world face problems of economic recession, high food prices, natural disasters and the increasingly destructive impact of climate change. Over a billion people are hungry and desperate need of aid.

“We now give around $2.40 per week from each person in New Zealand, that’s less than one flat white each week. This cut to the aid budget means we will fall even behind most of our peers in the OECD,” said Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director Barry Coates.

This government inherited a plan to reach $600 million by 2010, but has deferred it in each successive budget – and now this budget pushes it out to 2015-16. Meanwhile the commitment is worth less and less in real terms. As a proportion of Gross National Income, the usual measure for comparing aid, the aid programme will fall from 0.3 per cent to 0.24 per cent by 2014-15, close to the lowest level ever for New Zealand’s government aid.

The cuts have us falling further behind the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent GNI to aid – a target agreed and affirmed several times by New Zealand and other OECD countries.

In comparison, five countries (Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway) already meet or exceed the target, and the EU as a whole has committed to reaching it by 2015. Across the Tasman, the Australian government is closing in on an allocation of 0.5 per cent GNI to overseas aid by 2016. That’s still short of the target, but our Australian neighbours are way ahead of us in aid generosity.

“We are mired near the bottom of class amongst our OECD peers in the generosity of our aid giving, even when relative income is taken into account,” said Coates.

“Meanwhile, as individuals, we are second to none – New Zealanders are the most generous in the world. This sends a clear signal that our government can and must do better.”

This is not the time for New Zealand to turn our backs of our Pacific neighbours. They are already suffering from a drop in remittances from New Zealand (especially Samoa and Tonga), weak demand for their exports, and high prices for imported food.

Aid isn’t a handout. It is an investment in our future and that of our neighbours. We need a stable, prosperous and secure Pacific, not only for their benefit, but also our benefit. We spend five and a half times as much on defence as we do on aid. It’s time to recognise that investment in decent livelihoods, human rights and the basic necessities for human dignity are essential for a peaceful Pacific. Preventing conflict is far more cost effective than intervening to secure the peace afterwards.

/ends

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