Fall in aid donations from Europe


Aid flows from the European Union dropped last year for the first time in almost a decade as the euro zone crisis led 14 countries to cut financial assistance, anti-poverty group ONE said in a report published today.

The aid drop jeopardises the chances of some African economies to dispense with external assistance in the not too distant future, said the group co-founded by U2 lead singer Bono.

Overall aid from the 27 members of the EU fell 1.5 per cent in 2011 to €50.86 billion, the first drop since 2002, according to the report.

Fourteen EU members registered a decline. Greece and Spain, both struggling to reduce gaping budget deficits, cut aid.

Germany and Italy increased their programmes, but, as with the EU as a whole, were still far short of meeting their aid commitments, ONE said.

"Huge cuts in aid from Greece and Spain are not unexpected in this time of turmoil, but the poor record further across the board is worrying," said Adrian Lovett, ONE's executive director for Europe.

The advocacy group calculated that the EU would need to increase its official development assistance by €42.9 billion between now and 2015 to meet its targets.

For Africa, ONE's particular focus, the prospect that further budget austerity will hit aid programmes could postpone the day when countries can stand on their own feet.

While Africa needs to rely primarily on its own tax revenues to tackle poverty, outside help can increase the governments' ability to improve tax collection, combat corruption and attract investment, the group said.

Such steps, the group said, would help some African economies build "the long-term conditions for when external assistance is no longer required".

"This is close to realisation in a growing number of countries. But we are not there yet."

ONE calculated that the 15 countries that were EU members before 2004 needed to increase their aid to Africa over the period 2004-2015 by €26.6 billion to honour their public pledges.

As of last year the cumulative increase had reached €6 billion, or just 22.5 per cent of the target.