Foreign Aid

Let’s give more to Nepal, not to corrupt African regimes

Most of Ireland’s foreign aid budget goes to just seven African countries. The Irish Independent asks why is there little debate over whether these funds are going where they should, following high-profile corruption controversies that receive little follow up.

By Eamon Delaney, published by the Irish Independent on April 29, 2015

As the attention of the world is focused on the unfolding tragedy in Nepal, Ireland’s €600m aid programme, administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs, is again in the spotlight.

This is down from the almost billion euro during the Celtic Tiger years, but even into the recession and austerity at home, we still sent an average annual sum of about €700m overseas.

Most of the budget is spent by Irish Aid in just seven African countries: Uganda, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia and Malawi.

But you rarely hear any debate in Ireland about this money, and whether it is really going to the right people.

A few years ago, there was a flurry of controversy when it was discovered that €5m of Irish aid to Uganda has been misdirected by the Ugandan prime minister’s office, a flurry that caused laughter in Uganda itself, where such corruption is widespread.

We have also never debated why we give so much in development aid where people are not in danger of immediate starvation or death and yet comparatively little in emergency aid where it is desperately and immediately needed.

The €1m for the Nepal earthquake, and the same again for the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, could be described as paltry when contrasted with the hundreds of millions we give to relatively prosperous countries like Mozambique, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Nor do we follow up on the serious corruption allegations made about the likes of Malawi, to which we give $14m every year and where hundreds of millions have gone missing.

International donors suspended support, while the IMF imposed new anti-corruption conditions, especially after they discovered the president’s purchase of a new $40m government jet!

But there has been absolutely no debate or coverage of this here in Ireland, and no awkward questions from TDs and senators.

And it was the same with previous revelations about Malawi, to which Ireland has given €65m from 2010 to 2014, the years of bitter austerity in Ireland.

In 2014, the so-called Cashgate scandal involved up to a third of Malawi’s budget. Foreign donors including Britain, the EU and Norway angrily suspended all direct aid. But not laid-back lreland and there was no mention of it on the Irish Aid website.

No wonder that this week, Alex Duval Smith, the BBC correspondent in Malawi, argued in an article in ‘The Guardian’ that overseas aid is in fact worsening the corruption in countries like Mali and that this is driving their desperate inhabitants to try their luck escaping northwards and across to Europe.

Mali citizens are the third most frequent nationality rescued from Mediterranean waters near Sicily as fleeing migrants.

However, in sleepy Ireland, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is the only body that has asked a few hard questions about our huge overseas aid programme.

Our politicians have remained completely mute, despite the fact that the programme is still costing hundreds of millions in Irish taxpayers’ money.

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