In tough economic times, the New Zealand government must keep up its commitment to the world’s poorest, says New Zealand overseas aid agency Christian World Service (CWS).
Finance Minister Bill English this week warned of a tough budget round on May 28, saying all government departments would be asked to find savings.
CWS has written to Mr English and to Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully saying any cuts from the overseas aid budget would be devastating to people in poor countries. New Zealand’s overseas spending is critical for many of its Pacific neighbours and other communities throughout the world.
“We’re obviously very concerned at the state of the economy and share the government’s concern about tight times. We appreciate it will be a tough budget on May 28 but aid recipients on $1 a day are not in position to share that pain,” says CWS national director Pauline McKay.
The people who didn’t create the financial mess shouldn’t be the ones to lose their lives because of it, she says.
“The temptation might be to cut the aid budget and we are in unprecedented times but relatively speaking, New Zealanders are still very well off.”
Ms McKay said cutting the aid budget would be short-term thinking. The long-term effects of growing poverty especially in the Pacific would mean much higher costs in healthcare and greater obligations on family in New Zealand to send money home to the Pacific.
The New Zealand government has committed to spending 0.7 per cent of its gross national income on overseas aid but spends less than half. New Zealand is ranked 17 out of the 22 major OECD countries that give aid to developing countries.
CWS is active in the Pacific, supporting aid and development projects in Tonga, Timor Leste, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Kanaky and Bougainville.
Pauline McKay has come to CWS with eight years management experience at the UN’s World health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. Her impressive social justice career began earnestly in 1981 when she chaired anti-apartheid group Hart which opposed the divisive Springbok rugby tour. Her career includes periods leading the New Zealand YWCA and Waitangi Consultancy, and international roles in the World YWCA, the World Council of Churches and WHO. Ms McKay is a lively and interesting speaker. She is available for interview and can provide expert comment on aid and emergency response, and international development.
February 20, 2009