Wednesday, 4 November 1987
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Keating: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement regarding his policy in relation to Third World aid, including the allocation of expenditure in that respect this year; the way in which that money will be allocated and in view of the submissions of many of the organisations involved in Third World aid work and the distress in that area at the present time, the alternative sources of funding, if any, which exist.
Mr. Flanagan: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that official development assistance to the Third World will now fall to 0.185 per cent of the gross national product in 1988, the lowest it has been since 1981; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Griffin: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the provision of £11 million in the 1988 Estimate for overseas development aid, he will confirm his Department's commitment to the basic concept of the ODA Programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Griffin: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the £4 million cuts in the grant-in-aid for bilateral and other aid contributions for developing countries, as announced in the 1988 Estimates for international co-operation, he will indicate the projects currently being undertaken in Lesotho, Zambia, Tanzania and Sudan, which will now be discontinued; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Sherlock: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will outline the Government's proposals for Irish overseas development aid, in the light of the much reduced allocation in the Book of Estimates for 1988.
Mr. M. Higgins: asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the reason he chose to make so severe a cut, amounting to 29 per cent in the bilateral aid programme for underdeveloped countries; and if he will outline those of the current projects under the programme which are to be discontinued.
|(i) EC budget for development co-operation||7,800|
|(ii) EC Development Funds (Lomé Convention)||3,900|
|(iii) Food Aid Convention||400|
|(iv) Other (Turkey Protocol)||417|
|United Nations and World Bank|
|(i) World Bank||1,494|
|(ii) International Development Association||3,103|
|(iii) International Finance Corporation||60|
|(iv) United Nations Voluntary Agencies||578|
|(v) Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)||56|
|(i) Bilateral Aid Fund||10,000|
|(ii) Agency for Personal Service Overseas (APSO)||2,363|
|(iii) Disaster Relief||1|
|(iv) Advisory Council on Development Co-operation||75|
|(v) Refugee Resettlement Committee||56|
|(vi) Intergovernmental Committee for Migration||3|
The amount allocated in 1988 is £32.2 million. This amount will be allocated as follows: £19 million will be paid in the form of multilateral aid via international organisations active in development; £12.5 million will be disbursed under the Government's programme of bilateral assistance to developing countries and the balance, £0.7 million, represents the cost of administering the bilateral aid programme.
Mr. Keating: How can the Minister seriously tell the House that there is a commitment to the expansion of Third World aid when he has, for example, in this Estimate put a derisory allocation of £1,000 available for disaster relief where there is a 29 per cent cut in aid to four of the poorest countries of the world and where this Government propose to renege on an express commitment given by Government in March 1986 to giving an additional £1.5 million to the world food fund, apart from other express commitments? Is that not one of the most cowardly gestures ever seen in this House, to provide, for example, £1,000 for disaster relief? I am sure that is a joke. If it was not so tragic it would be laughable. How can the Minister defend those three examples?
Mr. Calleary: If the Deputy had been listening he would have heard my answer which was, that the maintenance and expansion of official development aid will occur as soon as economic circumstances permit. Secondly, the amount of £1,000 is a token Estimate. The Deputy, having been in office, knows what a token Estimate is.
Mr. Griffin: Will the Minister now agree that his Government have abandoned the optimum targets set by the UN of 0.75 per cent of GNP for ODA? It is now a miserly 0.185 per cent of GNP. Would he agree that with the massive cut of £11 million in the Estimates for 1988 the very fabric and structure of the ODA programme are now in jeopardy? Would he further agree that the moral reputation of Ireland built up so well by the previous Government on international fora has been substantially damaged by the repudiation of many of our statutory and voluntary commitments to the ODA programme? Will he indicate what projects in the bilateral aid in the countries with which we have relationship. Lesotho, Sudan, Zambia and Tanzania, at present being undertaken will now be prevented from completion? I have a further question——
Mr. Griffin: There are five questions down from Fine Gael in this regard. In view of the total abolition of the grant-in-aid to Gorta, will the Minister of State indicate what aid he hopes to give to such relief organisations in future?
Mr. Calleary: The position of Gorta is a separate question which we will come to later. I do not accept that the ODA has been abandoned. The aim of 0.7 per cent is something which all Governments have had and not all Governments made any real progress to meet it.
Mr. Calleary: The 1987 Estimate which this Government found when it took office was less than had been allocated in 1986. The Deputy asked what programmes are going to be abandoned. Let me restate that the commitments to existing projects will all be honoured.
Mr. M. Higgins: The Minister of State said that he is answering Question No. 49 in combination with the other questions. Question No. 49 in my name asks him to justify the cut of 29 per cent in the bilateral aid programme and it asks him to tell us what projects will be discontinued. The Minister has now said that no project will be discontinued to which a commitment has been made. If this is true, why is the programme in Sudan not proceeding? Is it not absurd to have sent an officer and allocated him to the Sudanese projects and then to have said that as a result of these Estimates there will be no projects in Sudan despite a famine?
Mr. Calleary: I repeat that commitments to existing projects will be honoured. In relation to the first part of the Deputy's question, the maintenance and expansion of official development assistance will be continued as soon as economic circumstances permit.
An Ceann Comhairle: A number of Deputies who have tabled questions in respect of this matter have yet to be called. I called Deputy Sherlock earlier but he did not respond at that stage. Seemingly he is offering now.
Mr. Sherlock: Would the Minister of State agree that as the reduction in expenditure is the equivalent of the amount raised by subscriptions given to Live Aid, it is a mandate from the people to keep up the level of contribution to development aid?
Mr. M. Higgins: I do not want to waste the time of this House but I wish to return to my Question No. 42 to which I need an answer. The taxpayers spent money last year on sending a representative to set up a project in Sudan which is addressed to famine relief. This year that programme is being disestablished. Is that true or not? Under the World Food Fund, is it not true that famine has been reported from Tigre in Ethiopia and because £1,000 was put in it will not be possible to send money? Have not the voluntary organisations — the NGOs — told the Minister that they do not want to be used as a scapegoat for cuts in overseas development aid?
Mr. Kelly: Is the Minister of State aware and does he accept that when Deputy O'Kennedy was Fianna Fáil spokesman on Foreign Affairs the constant and permanent plank of party policy in regard to development aid was that the proportion of this country's contribution to it should increase every year even — and this was the centre of his policy — in times of financial stringency. Is the Minister of State aware that it used to be the central idea in Fianna Fáil thinking on development aid that even in times of budgetary constraints whatever else should come or go development aid must keep on increasing?
Mr. Calleary: The Deputy is as well aware as I am of this country's financial problems. Every sector of Government has been affected. While I sympathise and would go along with the view that development aid should be increased, the hard reality is that development aid has to suffer pro tem until economic circumstances permit. We all have to suffer.
Mr. Birmingham: It is the Government's intention to withdraw from the development committee of the OECD since it would be quite impossible for us to hold our heads high? At the very least will he assure us that he will not have the temerity to turn up at the next Ministerial meeting of the committee and do us all a favour by resigning before then, given his failure to defend the development aid programme?
Mr. Quinn: Since the Minister of State has sought refuge in the argument of economic stringency, have this Government sought to renege on or reduce the multilateral commitments which are conducted in a less efficient way for recipients in the Third World than the bilateral programme? Why did the Government not retain the bilateral programme which we control and which was more efficient and, if they wanted to invoke the argument of financial stringency, renege on the extent of the multilaterial commitments? The Government have done exactly the opposite.
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