Can we afford overseas aid in times of crisis?

Wednesday, 25 Aug 2010

Of course we can!

* Instead of not being able to afford overseas aid, we cannot afford to give less aid. The government has rightly indicated that for us to get out of this recession, we need to repair the damage to our reputation on the global stage. This reputation depends on our reliability and our willingness to honour our promises to the international community.

* Aid is now not less affordable than before. The aid target is set in % of national income, meaning the aid budget goes up and down in line with the economy. In other words, it is equally difficult in good times as in bad to adhere to the target; in both cases it’s not a case of affordability, but of courage of conviction.

* “Aid” is not a luxury, a pass-time for the rich. Aid is our “membership fee” for belonging to the international community of nations. It is a practical expression of our nation’s wish to cooperate with other countries and to help them weather the storms of global economic turbulence.

* Aid is not charity; it’s an investment in the future. By assisting other countries in their efforts to escape poverty, we are investing in future partnerships and future trade relations. Much like Ireland in the 1980s, developing countries will remember those countries that stood by them in their hour of need, and they will have a natural inclination to work and trade with them.

* Cutting the aid budget is short-sighted. It will do nothing for our own economy, but will have a dramatic impact on the world’s poorest people. The entire aid budget amounts to some 1% of the government’s current expenditure and cutting it will have virtually no impact on our national debt, or on the economic growth rate.

* In 1847, in the time of the Irish famine, a group of Choctaw Indians in the USA collected $710 – small fortune for these very poor and marginalised people – and sent it to help starving people in Ireland. In their poverty, the Choctaws reached out to an Irish nation in dire need. We’d do well to recall such generosity now, when 1 in 6 people on the planet does not have enough to eat.


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