Apr 10 2012
EU Member States slashing aid budgets
Although the European Union (EU) has maintained its position as the world’s largest aid donor, EU Member States are under attack by non-governmental organisations for “turning their backs” on the world’s poorest people by slashing their international aid budgets during the financial crisis caused by the bankers.
Last year 12 EU Member States cut their aid budgets, with the countries hit hardest by the debt crisis among those reducing their commitments the most dramatically. Greece slashed its spending on aid by 39.3 per cent and Spain by 32.7 per cent. But there were also cuts of 13.3 per cent in Belgium and 14.3 per cent in Austria. Only three of the 15 richer EU countries – Italy, Sweden and Germany – increased their spending on aid in 2011.
Countries must not turn their backs on the over three billion people living on less than $2.50 a day. European countries are cutting aid faster than their economies are shrinking. That is wrong. If we do not change priorities we could see Europe entering an age of ‘aid austerity’, pulling back from supporting millions of poor people in developing countries, and that would be a tragedy of epic proportions.
Using unnecessary austerity to slash aid budgets disproportionally accentuates the cruel side of capitalism
Although European governments are under misguided pressure to cut their budgets, they should realise how important development programmes can be to tackle global poverty and to support developing countries to increase trade and cope with the impact of the financial crisis.
Seven years ago the EU15 pledged to give at least 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) in aid by 2015. The 12 new member states that joined the EU after 2004 agreed to spend 0.33 per cent by the same year. The OECD said the reduction in major donors’ aid commitments in 2011 was the first drop for seven years.
A spokesperson from Oxfam said Europe’s overseas aid cuts meant that 600 million children would not be vaccinated against deadly diseases and 500 million mosquito bed nets would not be provided to poor people. The sweeping cuts to European development aid are inexcusable. They will mean the world’s poorest people are being made to pay the price of austerity and bankers bonuses whilst the bank bail-outs continue.
Cutting aid is no way to balance the books or increase trade.. Even small cuts in aid cost lives as people are denied life-saving medicines and clean water. Aid is such a tiny part of European budgets that cutting it has no discernible impact on deficits – it is like cutting your hair to lose weight.
Alarms bells are ringing all over the EU and in the developing countries. There is, however, still time to turn things around. The data suggests that Europe’s big three – the United Kingdom, France and Germany – are showing that it is possible to maintain aid levels despite tough economic times. This is the right strategic choice. The world’s poorest people did not cause Europe’s financial crisis. They should not be made to pay the price.
As a whole the EU remains the world’s biggest donor, providing €53bn of aid in 2011, more than half of the global total. Despite the crisis, I am proud to say the EU in general and the European Parliament specifically continues to reaffirm its solidarity with the poorest across the world. EU aid has helped millions pull themselves out of poverty, in developing countries, and saved countless lives.