Minister hopeful Irish Aid funding won’t be cut

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

THE MINISTER of State for trade and development has re-affirmed Ireland’s commitment to meet the UN target on aid provision by 2015, after failing to meet the target this year.

THE MINISTER of State for trade and development has re-affirmed Ireland’s commitment to meet the UN target on aid provision by 2015, after failing to meet the target this year.

The Government is to provide €639 million towards programmes in developing countries this year, but the level of aid now equates to 0.5% of GNP, dropping from its peak of 0.59% in 2008.

“Naturally we are anxious not to let it reduce further, but that is a challenge in these difficult times,” said Minister Joe Costello.

The minister was in Limerick last week to launch the first public consultation on the review of Irish Aid’s White Paper, which set out its aid commitments to overseas countries six years ago.

“When the White Paper was launched in 2006 it was a different Ireland. There was money to beat the band; money wasn’t a problem, but now we are in the middle of one of the deepest economic crises that we’ve had. We’re going to have to tailor our programmes to suit the changing needs. We have to look at value for money and the most effective way of conducting our business,” he told the Limerick Leader.

Asked about potential cuts in this sector in 2013, he said: “I wouldn’t like to speculate on that, but it has been cut by 30% since 2008, which has been fairly substantial.”

The review is expected to help shape Irish Aid’s policy direction for the coming years.

In spite of the financial difficulties the country is facing, the minister said he is hopeful Ireland can reach the UN target of providing 0.7% of GNP to overseas nations by 2015. He said per capita Ireland is the most generous country in the world and “our reputation internationally is second to none.”

Ultimately he said Irish Aid should seek to make itself obsolete once “countries are sufficiently stabilised”, but expressed doubts over whether this could ever be fully achieved due to the levels of poverty around the world.

“Certainly there has been so much progress in Africa in recent times, that we would envisage moving out of some of those countries and move elsewhere where there is the greatest need. They are no longer the poorest of the poor, and that’s a very valuable development” he said.

See www.irishaid.ie to make a contribution to the review