Most EU countries ‘inflating overseas aid figures’

ALMOST all EU countries have been accused of inflating their overseas aid figures in a report released by Oxfam.

Ireland’s figures include €10 million that was spent on housing and educating refugees while they waited for their status to be recognised.

The biggest problem, according to Oxfam, is that countries are double-accounting - using their aid contributions to house refugees and fund debt relief for Iraq and Nigeria.

This accounted for about €12.5 billion or a third of the total budget earmarked for food, health, education and other programmes in the world’s poorest countries last year.

Louis Belanger of Oxfam said this was contrary to what EU countries promised to do four years ago at the UN conference on debt relief in Monterey.

“They signed an agreement saying that debt relief would be additional to their aid funding,” he said.

The only country that respected this agreement was Norway.

The OECD will release their official aid figures in Paris this week and they are expected to show that in 2005, France, Germany and Britain spent €3.50bn, €2.96bn and €2.26bn respectively on debt cancellation, housing refugees in Europe and educating foreign students in European universities.

Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency, is likely to have inflated its aid figures by as much as 50% in 2005, according to Oxfam.

Ireland was one of the best performers in terms of increasing its aid funding and on spending on refugees.

“Ireland has done well but we would prefer to see the money for housing and educating refugees in Ireland coming from the departments of housing and education rather than from the aid budget,” said Mr Belanger.

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