Macron’s promise on development expenditure broken in 2018 budget law

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Sorbonne University in Paris, September 2017. [Ludovic Marin/ EPA]

France adopted its 2018 budget, but expenditure on development aid is well below what President Emmanuel Macron had promised. EURACTIV France reports.

The draft budget law (PLF) was adopted by the French parliament on Thursday (21 December). But it was a big disappointment for French NGOs: deputies increased the public development assistance budget by only €100 million.

French President Emmanuel Macron had pledged to allocate 0.55% of gross national income (GNI) to development aid by 2022 compared to 0.38% in 2016. To make this commitment a reality, the French ODA should have gone from the current €9 billion to €15 billion in 2022, an increase of €1.2 billion each year for five years. Far from the €100 million expected in 2018.

“The discrepancy between political speeches and acts is glaring! With an increase of just €100 million, we are still far from the €6 billion required to achieve Emmanuel Macron’s commitment,” said Michael Siegel, in charge of advocacy on development aid for Oxfam.

France is far from achieving 0.7% of GNI dedicated to development aid, an objective that EU ministers, including Paris, have pledged to respect.

To boost the French contribution, however, Emmanuel Macron said he was ready for a “considerable budgetary effort for the next five years.”

According to OECD data, only six of 28 EU countries – Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom – achieved the target of 0.7% set by the United Nations in 2016.

NGOs see this as a worrying signal in terms of tax justice: with the abolition of the ISF (tax of solidarity on wealth), and the lowering of the corporate tax rate, the tax system is lightening the burden on the richest 1%. NGOs claim this tax cut could be better used to improve public services or increase development assistance.

“The lost €3.5 to €4 billion could for example allow France to more than double its official development assistance budget to fight against extreme poverty in the world or to give up the planned cuts in the housing budget, “said Manon Aubry, Oxfam spokesperson.

Speaking to students at the Sorbonne university in Paris last September, Emmanuel Macron said he was in favor of the idea of transferring the entire revenue from the tax on financial transactions to the fight against extreme poverty and climate change- another promise he has broken.

“By refusing to allocate 100% of the tax revenue on financial transactions to development aid, MPs gave up €700 million that could have allowed for example 1 million children to access primary education or nearly 10 million people to access basic health services for one year,” said eight French NGOs.

On the government side, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, acknowledged a few weeks ago that the increase in the ODA budget was not enough to achieve a target of 0.55% but that the president had asked to work on a “realistic trajectory”.

“The hour of truth will be in the next budget and the following one,” assured the minister.

But the additional €500 million in ODA expenditure planned until 2020 will hardly change the situation.