Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - UN Target for Aid.

9.

asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Ireland is now the third lowest country in the developed world to honour its commitment to achieve the UN target for aid, of 0.7 per cent of gross national product; if he has satisfied himself with that situation; and if he has any plans to improve it.

30.

asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the multi-party support for the Comhlámh campaign for an immediate return to the 1986 levels of aid and a minimum of 0.045 per cent increase yearly afterwards to achieve our United Nations aid obligation by the year 2000; and if the Government will commit themselves to even those modest targets.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 9 and 30 together.

I am aware that the 1988 report of the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD shows Ireland as joint second lowest with the US at 0.20 per cent of GNP for 1987. Austria is the lowest at 0.17 per cent.

I am also aware of the Comhlámh campaign. However, the very difficult budgetary situation which this Government have faced since they took office has required deep cuts in expenditure in all areas and ODA could not have been exempted. Deputies will be aware that the amount provided in the 1989 Estimates shows an increase of approximately £1 million over last year's figure.

We are committed to progress towards the UN target as budgetary circumstances allow.

While accepting the need to bring the nation's finances to order, will the Minister of State accept that it is possible to do so while establishing certain protected priorities? Is the Minister aware that Denmark very successfully dealt with its budget deficit while managing to maintain, develop and move steadily toward honouring its full commitment to the UN target? Does the Minister accept that the two are not mutually exclusive.

The Minister is unable to accept that at the moment. The Deputy and everybody in the House knows that our budgetary problems must take first priority. It would be very hard to exempt ODA from something that is happening in every other Department.

A final question, Deputy Flaherty.

Will the Minister admit that not only was ODA not exempted but it was hit far more severely than any other area of spending, particularly, the bilateral aid programme? Is the Minister really happy to defend our bilateral aid programme being cut by 26 per cent in one year alone and by a further 10 per cent this year?

A Minister is never happy with whatever money he has.

Let us proceed now to other questions.