Macron announces U-turn on development budget

French First Lady Brigitte Macron(C)poses with singer of Irish rock band U2,Bono(R),after a meeting with the French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris,France,24 July 2017.[Julien de Rosa/EPA]

After announcing budget cuts at the beginning of July,President Emmanuel Macron has reaffirmed his commitment to increase France’s official development assistance budget to 0.55%of gross national income(GNI)by 2022.EURACTIV France reports.

France will pick up its slack on development aid after all.At a meeting on Monday(24 July)with Bono,the singer of Irish rock band U2 and founder of international NGO ONE,Macron reiterated his campaign promise to boost his country’s aid budget during his five-year mandate.

By 2022, Paris plans to raise its international solidarity contributions from 0.38% of GNI to 0.55%. This would set it on track to reaching the OECD’s goal of 0.7% by 2030, which was one of Macron’s campaign promises.

The 0.7% benchmark was adopted by the wealthy countries of the OECD decades ago but so far only a handful, including the UK and Sweden, have reached it.

“International aid for the most vulnerable countries, particularly in Africa, will increase during this mandate to reach 0.55% of national wealth in 2022,” the Élysée Palace said in a press release.

Presidential candidates too cautious on development pledges

Most of the candidates for Sunday’s (23 April) presidential election in France have made inadequate commitments on development aid. Just five of the 11 presidential hopefuls say they would boost spending to meet the OECD target of 0.7% of GNI. EURACTIV France reports.

Macron “renewed his commitment to reaching 0.55% by 2022, which is very important” for all supporters of this cause, Bono told the press after the meeting in Paris.

2018 budget

This U-turn by the president comes after contradictory statements on official development assistance (ODA) by the government. Gérald Damarnin, the minister for public accounts, had on 11 July announced deep cuts to the 2018 state budget.

These savings, totalling some €4.5bn, are aimed at bringing the French deficit under the eurozone’s 3% threshold; a target France has already missed several times.

France pledges to meet EU deficit target, despite strong headwinds

France will meet the EU deficit limit of 3.0% of GDP in 2017, the prime minister insisted Thursday (29 June), after the public accounts watchdog said it would miss the mark unless it took urgent action.

At the time the announcement was made, the ministry of foreign affairs was expected to find savings of €282m, half of which were due to come from the ODA budget.

This €141m cut to France’s development aid was strongly criticised by NGOs. “Lumping official development assistance together with ministerial management costs is like saying the fight against extreme poverty, climate change and global pandemics is just a side issue,” said Friederike Röder, the director of ONE France.

Austerity

This hesitance to commit to international solidarity does not bode well for France’s efforts to reverse its development downward spiral.

Paris’ ODA budget has fallen consistently since 2010, from 0.5% of GNI to 0.38% in 2016; a victim of the country’s austerity drive aimed at cleaning up the public finances.

François Hollande’s mandate saw the biggest cuts, which were partly reversed towards the end of his five-year term by Manuel Valls’ government.