The Government is spending €535.3 million on this programme in 2010. It spent €422m on development aid in 2002 when our tax revenues were last in the region of €30bn, when the exchequer surplus was €94m and our national debt was €31bn.
The Government has spent more than €5.8bn altogether between 2001 and 2010, so even if we stand indicted in the eyes of some, Irish people have pulled their weight on the delivery of ‘real change’ to the less privileged.
But the view of the aid agencies is that the Government needs to commit €1.1bn per annum for an on-target performance. The foreign affairs minister is exhorted to find the money and, in the classical language of a lobbyist, “to set out clearly defined, year-by-year steps” to meet their aspirations – in circumstances of unprecedented turmoil and volatility. The Government is also asked to introduce legislation so that Ireland can lead the world in the safeguarding of aid commitments from any and all prevarication and uncertainty.
This approach would be a difficult challenge at any time because Peter has to be robbed to pay Paul. But when government expenditure is €54bn and income is €30bn that challenge becomes even more elusive because the only source of money is from international moneylenders whose penal rates are a reflection of their below-par confidence in the country’s capacity to recover from the brutal mauling inflicted by our banks and building societies and their capacity to regain functionality.
It still appears a great deal of money spent on aid by Ireland is based on the ‘black baby principle’ of merely giving it away with no economic advantages being conferred on our economy. Other countries spend aid on the provision of long-term infrastructure and assets by their own enterprises so as to stimulate self-sufficiency, not nurture chronic infinite dependency and, critically, minimise exposure to bribery, corruption and price gouging – a widespread experience anecdotally reported following the horrific earthquake in Haiti.
How, therefore, can Ireland meet the ambitions of those seeking to alleviate world poverty if our policy is really founded on the practice of borrowing money to give it away and the scale of the expenditure bears no relationship to our capacity to afford it?
It would be preferable to participate in the international aid arena with integrity rather than indulging our vanity and always seeking a status and recognition in the eyes of the world that is beyond our capacity to sustain.