Ireland among best at targeting overseas aid

Mon, Jun 25, 2012, 01:00

IRELAND HAS some of the best targeted overseas aid in the world, and remains an inspiration to other EU countries, according to the global charity the One campaign.

The campaign, which was co-founded by Bono in 2004 and works in an advocacy role for the developing world, has given Ireland’s official development assistance programme a glowing report.

Its annual report praised Ireland for “not turning its back on the world’s poor”.

It said that total official development assistance decreased by just 3.1 per cent between 2010 and 2011 despite severe budgetary constraints.

Ireland also remains ahead of its interim target of spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on overseas development aid by 2015.

In addition, it is ahead of countries such as Germany, France and Finland, who are net contributors to the EU bailout fund, in reaching those targets.

Ireland contributed €650 million in official development assistance in 2011, and is joint sixth in the EU 27 in terms of reaching the 2015 target.

Ireland is ranked as the top European country in terms of maximising the efficiency of aid given.

This means that it passes through a minimal number of organisations on the way to poor people, and reduces the administrative burden on recipient countries.

It is second in terms of fostering institutions in developing countries, and fourth in terms of the transparency of aid.

One’s executive director Jamie Drummond said the Irish public should be proud of the country’s continuing commitment to official development assistance, and it “removed the excuse” of other countries using the global economic crisis to cut their contributions.

He said Ireland was playing a leadership role in Europe by “holding the line”, and was in a position to press others to do likewise when it holds the EU presidency next year.

“It is important that people in Ireland who are having a hard time know that Ireland’s aid money is among the best spent in the world.

“It is an enormous credit to the nation,” he added.

Mr Drummond maintains that Ireland’s aid commitments were appreciated across the continent of Africa, and would eventually pay dividends in terms of reciprocal trade.

The continuing euro zone crisis is having an impact on the pledge, first made in 2002, to achieve a 0.7 per cent target by 2015.

Collectively member states are €18 billion short of their interim targets, with Germany and Italy accounting for half of that figure.

France and Spain accounted for a further €3 billion.

The EU 27 will have to collectively increase aid by €42.93 billion to reach a target of €93.78 billion by 2015.

In contrast to the EU, which has been gripped by a collective crisis for four years, Africa is booming, particularly in the poorest sub-Saharan parts where economies are growing at a rate of 4 per cent to 7 per cent a year.

The average at present is 5.5 per cent per year.

Countries which have been synonymous with famine, such as Ethiopia, have registered 10 per cent annual growth for the last decade. Ghana has graduated to being a middle-income country.

The growth in Africa has been attributed to debt cancellation in the 2000s, better targeted aid, mobile phone technology and a commodities boom.

“We’re hoping that countries that use their natural resources will not need our aid in 10 to 15 years’ time,” Mr Drummond said.

‘perfectly legal’ Bono’s tax arrangements defended

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Jamie Drummond of the anti-poverty campaign, One, has defended U2 singer Bono’s tax arrangements, saying they are “perfectly legal”.

Condemnation by the British prime minister David Cameron of comedian Jimmy Carr’s tax arrangements has increased public scrutiny over how wealthy people use shelters to avoid paying tax.

U2 faced severe criticism and charges of hypocrisy in 2006 when they moved part of their business arrangements to the Netherlands to avoid paying tax on royalties in Ireland following the cap which was put on the artists’ exemption scheme in Ireland in late 2005.

The criticism has been particularly focused on Bono, who has been a vocal advocate for developed countries to increase their official development assistance to poorer countries.

In addition, Bob Geldof, another advocate for the One campaign, has been criticised for availing of non-domiciled tax status in the UK to avoid paying large sums on overseas earnings.

Mr Drummond said both men were “not engaged in tax avoidance as I understand it. They are engaged in perfectly legal matters.”

He maintained the tax issues that are relevant in terms of development policy are to ensure African countries generate more tax revenue themselves to invest in their economies.

“It is a completely different set of issues from anything to do with Bob or Bono. It is a non-relevant issue from the point of view of anybody working in development.”

He said countries’ tax arrangements were a matter for the countries themselves and ultimately U2’s tax affairs were a matter for the band’s management.

Mr Drummond said he has travelled regularly in Africa with Bono. “All I can say is that I know Bono very well, and the amount of work, time and sweat equity and the money he spends on this is phenomenal.”