France cuts its development aid more than Greece
France's official development assistance (ODA) decreased by almost 10% in 2013, and is likely to continue the trend in 2014. Greece cuts its official ODA by 7.7% in 2013, due to draconian austerity measures undertaken by the country since 2010. EurActiv France reports.
Yet, ODA in France was cut even more. Although the French treasury recorded only a slight national budget decrease of 0.46 % of GDP in 2013 compared to 0.47% in 2012, the publication of statistics by the OECD shows a negative picture.
Part of France’s gross national income (GNI) dedicated to providing aid to developing countries fell from 0.41% of GDP in 2013 according to the numbers published by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) on 7 April. The total amount dedicated to development was €8.44 billion.
The difference from the budget that the French government had announced is huge, claimed ONE, a poverty-fighting NGO.
“The government presented an important budget to the National Assembly and nothing came of it. According to the OECD, €9.89 billion was in the original budget compared to €8.44 billion that was actually allocated to development aid”, Friederike Röder claimed, director of ONE France.
The OECD explains that reductions in French aid are because reimbursements of loans and debt relief operations were less significant in 2013 than in 2012. The drop in French development aid is the third largest reduction of official aid in the world, after Portugal and Canada.
France’s poor economic performance has affected the country’s international commitment to dedicate 0.7% of its GNI to development aid. France is now the fifth largest donor in the world after Japan.
Recently, French MPs tried to reinforce France’s international commitment by adding the target of 0.7% to a bill on development and international solidarity. The bill, passed by the National Assembly, must now be endorsed by the French Senate.
New ODA world record
The budget cuts in French development aid occur at a time when the global trend is to increase levels of ODA. In 2013, donor states provided $134.8 billion (€97.67 million), the equivalent of a 6.1% increase from 2012.
According to the OECD, which has been recording financial flows to developing countries since 1961, the tendency to increase ODA globally is set to continue for the next years.
France’s bad score is compared to that of the UK, which managed to mobilise enough public resources to meet the 0.7% target.
Thanks to efforts to increase budget allocations to development aid, the United Kingdom is now part of the five countries in Europe to have reached the symbolic threshold (Norway, Sweden, Luxemburg and Denmark).
NGOs are alarmed
NGOs are concerned by the OECD investigation.
“No more minister of development, a large budget cut: we are witnessing an obvious deprioritizing of international solidarity in governmental action. Climate change, food security, humanitarian crises, public service developments… Has France given up?” Christian Reboul of Oxfam asked.
Last week there was a French cabinet reshuffle and the Minister for Development, Pascal Canfin, effectively resigned. The development and cooperation portfolio will remain in the ministry for foreign affairs but will be overseen by a secretary of state.
Forecasted savings of €200 million
The future of French public development aid is uncertain. The government's budget bill for 2014 aims to make savings of 5.7% or €178 million.
NGOs fear yet another cut to French aid in 2015, which should contribute to planned savings for 2015-2017 of €50 billion. Their main worries concern donation programmes to the world's poorest countries, as donor countries prefer to focus instead on loan policies.
“Cuts are the order of the day for the 2015 French ODA budget, even though it is a crucial year for development and international solidarity” worries the NGO group ‘Coordination SUD’, adding that the programme Solidarité avec les pays en développement (Solidarity with development countries) is likely to be hit by a cut of €200 million.
Since 1997, aid to developing countries constantly increased until its peak in 2010, according to statistics published by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC).
Official development aid decreased between 2010 and 2012, victim of many governments’ austerity measures.
The bounce back of aid budgets in 2013 was so strong, that even if the five new countries that joined the DAC (Iceland, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia) are not taken into account, 2013 was a new record year, with almost €100 billion dedicated to development aid.
“It is heartening to see governments increasing their development aid budgets again, despite the financial constraints they are currently facing,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “However, assistance to some of the neediest countries continues to fall, which is a serious concern. We will need to address this issue when the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation meets in Mexico next week, as well as the broader challenge of how to make the most of ODA in a growing pool of resources for development finance."
“Cutting public development aid is not inevitable: the UK, in similar economic conditions as France, met the 0.7% target by increasing ODA by 27.8% in 2013” claimed Bernard Pinaud, Vice-President of Coordination SUD and Delegate-General of CCFD-Terre Solidaire.
Friederike Röder, director of ONE France states: “The president and his government stated that despite the economic crisis, France had the duty to maintain ambitious development policies. However, French development aid has been cut three years in a row, with a significant drop in 2013. Let us remember that France allocated 1.35% of its national wealth to development in 1960, only 15 years after the Second World War.
Whilst France reflects on its plan to make 50 billion of savings, ONE France calls on the new government to not sacrifice aid to the poorest countries on account of austerity and to not renege on its international commitments.”
- 5-6 May 2014: OECD Forum 2014 will have session entitled “Tax for Development”