Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Overseas Development Aid.

Wednesday, 4 November 1987

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 374 No. 10

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7.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael 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.

19.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles 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.

[2298]21.

Mr. Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan 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.

28.

Mr. Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan 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.

32.

Mr. Sherlock: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe 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.

49.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. 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.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. Calleary): Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 19, 21, 28, 32 and No. 49 for written reply together.

Amount IR£000
Departmental Administration 730
EC
(i) EC budget for development co-operation 7,800
(ii) EC Development Funds (Lomé Convention) 3,900
[2299](iii) Food Aid Convention 400
(iv) Other (Turkey Protocol) 417
(v) IFAD 300
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
(vi) Other 905
Bilateral Assistance
(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
Total 32,241

Mr. Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan Griffin  On a point of order, with reference to Question No. 21 there is a misprint on the Order Paper. The word “provision” should read “cut”.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy is absolutely correct. I was going to advert to that matter. Thank you, Deputy Griffin.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  Government policy remains one of commitment to the maintenance and expansion of official development assistance as soon as economic circumstances permit.

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.

Other than the Exchequer there is no [2300] alternative source of funding for official development assistance.

The funds available in 1988 will be sufficient to maintain a basic policy of assistance from Ireland to developing countries and our commitments to existing projects will all be honoured.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I will take the Deputies in the order in which they tabled questions.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael 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: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán 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. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  What does it mean in this case? Is it very token?

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  It is very token, yes, but it allows the Department in cases of emergency to help by reallocating funds.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  Is the Minister of State saying that there is more money available for disaster relief if it arises?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  If the Deputy [2301] wants to ask a question he should rise in his place and do so.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  I apologise.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  He should wait for the Minister's reply first.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  The Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Minister had not completed his remarks.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  Does he then suggest that more money is going to be available for disaster relief if the need arises?

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  If the need arises, the very fact that there is a token figure in the Estimates means that money could be allocated from other areas.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  Will it be?

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  That will be decided at the time.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is Deputy Joe Sherlock offering? Otherwise I shall call on Deputy Griffin.

Mr. Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan 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——

[2302]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I have allowed the Deputy some latitude. I agree that he has two questions down.

Mr. Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan 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: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán 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.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  I did not interrupt the Deputy.

A Deputy:  We were working towards it.

Mr. Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan Griffin  That is not true.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  The Deputy's Government did not reach 0.7 per cent or anything like 0.7 per cent.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan Griffin  It was 0.26 per cent of GNP in 1986.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán 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. Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan Griffin  That is impossible.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  The commitments to existing programmes will all be honoured.

Mr. Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan Griffin  With a reduction in grant-in-aid?

[2303]Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. 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: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán 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.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  A Cheann Comhairle——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  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: Information on Joe Sherlock  Zoom on Joe 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. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  The House would do well to remember that whether the money comes through direct subscriptions or from tax it comes from the people.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Charles Flanagan has put down a question and I [2304] am calling him. He is not present. Deputy Higgins.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. 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. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  The NGOs have not told me that they do not want to be used as a scapegoat. I have not met the NGOs, as the Deputy——

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Obviously.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  A meeting was held less than a fortnight ago. I was not asked to it.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It was a meeting to which the Minister of State was invited but to which nobody came.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Order. Deputy John Kelly.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Is the Sudanese programme cancelled or not?

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  The Deputy has not put down a specific question about Sudan. The Deputy's question was down for written reply yesterday.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  The Minister offered to answer it and it was not answered.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Order. Deputy [2305] John Kelly has been called. The Minister and the Deputy will obey the Chair.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  If the Deputy puts down a specific question I will answer it.

Mr. Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan Griffin  My Question No. 28 refers specifically to Sudan.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  I have said that any commitments will be honoured. What more do Deputies want?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This is getting very untidy because the Chair is not being obeyed by either side of the House. I am calling Deputy John Kelly.

Mr. Kelly: Information on John M. Kelly  Zoom on John M. 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: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán 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.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I will allow brief questions from Deputy Birmingham and Deputy Quinn.

Mr. Keating: Information on Michael Keating  Zoom on Michael Keating  A sum of £30 million was [2306] voted yesterday in this House for a white elephant.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Keating, please desist.

Mr. Birmingham: Information on George. M. Birmingham  Zoom on George. M. 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. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  For a Deputy from a party that preaches economic hardship——

Mr. Birmingham: Information on George. M. Birmingham  Zoom on George. M. Birmingham  Not on the backs of the starving.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  The Deputy was in charge of the development fund that was cut from 1986 to 1987.

Mr. Birmingham: Information on George. M. Birmingham  Zoom on George. M. Birmingham  No.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  The Estimate was reduced.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  No projects were turned down.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí 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.

[2307]Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  I will circulate the figures.

Miss Kennedy: Information on Geraldine Kennedy  Zoom on Geraldine Kennedy  We have them.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  The multilateral programme has also been cut.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Not to the extent possible.

Mr. Calleary: Information on Seán Calleary  Zoom on Seán Calleary  I will give the figures. It has been cut by more than the bilateral programme.


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