December 1, 2020

EastAfrica Herald

East African Views on Global News.

Aid Cuts Make Development A Priority For Africa

Aid budgets are set for their biggest fall in 15 years as a
result of austerity cuts in developed nations, according to Oxfam, making it a
necessity for African countries to focus on their own economic development
rather than relying on handouts from richer nations.
Calculations by the agency suggest that aid will fall by at
least $9.5 billion by the end of 2012, figures which Oxfam calls “shameless and
depressingly predictable”. It says the figure likely to be trimmed from budgets
is enough to educate more than half the 67 million children who currently
cannot afford to go to school.

Any cuts are expected to impact strongest on education
provision, with the goal of Education for All (EFA) by 2015 likely to be
hardest hit. This month’s UNESCO Education for All Monitoring Report said a
decline in aid funding would prevent progress towards the 2015 target, with
Sub-Saharan Africa already some way from meeting this target.
“Aid to basic education continues to comprise around 40
percent of total aid to education. Yet, of the $5.6 billion in aid to basic
education, only around $3 billion went to the poorest countries. These
countries need $16 billion a year to achieve the EFA goals by 2015, leaving a
large deficit of about $13 billion,” the report said.
Yet the global financial crisis is forcing governments to
make savings and aid budgets are not immune from this. The United States
Congress is demanding cuts to foreign aid as part of a larger deficit-cutting
programme. The six-year, $93 billion Global Health Initiative (GHI) programme,
which seeks to improve medical access and quality in eight developing nations, is
one that is under threat. Under the programme, initiated in 2009, Kenya was one
of the countries to be supported with 65 billion shillings ($775 million) per
year for a period of three years. All three Republican presidential hopefuls
have advocated cutting US aid overseas. The Netherlands has restructured its
aid policy to exclude education, while Spain is under pressure to reduce its
aid budget. There is every indication that other countries are following or
will do in the near future.
It is not only donor governments that are scaling back their
commitment to aid. International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans are likely to fall
as a result of the financial crisis. World Bank funding commitments for
education in the world’s poorest countries fell by over $700 million in the
last financial year and is now at the second lowest level in over 20 years.
This is despite the high-profile commitment of an extra $750 billion last
September for education in developing countries and warnings from senior figures
within the organisation that cuts in aid budgets would be folly.
“The temptation is great when a crisis looms – as it does
now – for rich countries to slash development assistance. This would be a grave
mistake,” said World Bank Vice President for Africa, Obiageli Ezekwesili. But,
in a statement that was perhaps indicative of the motives of many in the
developed world for providing assistance to Africa and other developing
regions, she said cutting aid would be a grave mistake “not because Africa is desperate
for aid, but because the global economy is desperate to see a high-performing
Some American criticism of US aid cuts in Africa came from
the same angle, with Dr Christopher J. Elias, president of international
development organisation Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH),
saying the move could hurt American business interests in the long-term.
“Choosing to cut investment now to countries that have the
potential to become America’s next big trading partner is not only myopic, but
fiscally imprudent,” he says. Bob Rabatsky, senior vice president of
international development company Fintrac Inc., agrees. “With job creation
becoming more dependent on expanding American exports overseas, international
aid efforts are one of our country’s most effective ways to promote economic
growth,” he says. “A recent GAO study on U.S.-funded programs focusing on trade
development in emerging markets found that for every one dollar spent on these
programs resulted in a $53 increase in merchandise exports for the United
Oxfam believes that these cuts are evidence that poor people
will pay the price of austerity measures in rich countries, and has urged the
developed world to find new ways of funding development.
“Rather than cutting aid, rich countries need to deliver on
the promises they have made to the poorest people who are suffering additional
hardships caused by the economic crisis and climate change,” said spokesperson
Max Lawson. “Aid is only a tiny fraction of rich nations’ income so these kinds
of cuts are largely totemic – a soft target in hard times.”
Though a 2010 survey by World Public Opinion found that
Americans believed 25 percent of the federal budget goes to aid, the real
figure is a lot smaller.
The International Affairs Budget, which has come under
pressure for cuts in the US, is only 1.4 percent of the federal budget and has
already seen cuts this year. Only $50 billion of a total budget of $3 trillion
was for the State Department budget, according to Russell Rumbaugh of the
non-partisan Henry L. Stimson Centre. This money funds US embassies and
diplomacy around the world as well as aid work. Rumbaugh has been joined by
several former US secretaries of state in arguing that cutting this budget
would not deliver the savings that are needed.
“There are more hungry people in the world than live in
North America and Europe combined,” says Lawson. “How can we tell them there’s
no money for aid while the bankers who caused the crisis are pocketing billions
in bonuses?