Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Questions (37)

Seán Haughey

Question:

37. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the expected percentage of official development assistance, ODA, and gross national income in 2020 following the recent budget 2020 allocation of just under €21 million; his plans to ensure that the 0.7% target is reached by 2030; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53292/19]

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Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Foreign)

I will certainly try to adhere to the Acting Chairman's request. I ask the Tánaiste the expected percentage that ODA will be of GNI in 2020 following the recent budget 2020 allocation of just under €21 million and to outline the Government's plan to ensure that the 0.7% target is reached by 2030.

The Government allocated almost €838 million for ODA in budget 2020. This represents an increase of almost €21 million on the 2019 allocation and the sixth consecutive year in which allocations to ODA have increased.

Based on the Department of Finance budget day forecast for GNI in 2020, we expect the ODA-GNI percentage to be in the region of 0.31%.

The Government is firmly committed to making incremental, sustainable progress towards achieving the UN target of 0.7% of GNI to ODA by 2030. Reaching 0.7% will require a significant expansion in ODA volumes over the next decade and difficult choices will be required between competing priorities, particularly if economic circumstances change.

It is essential that the planned growth in ODA is managed effectively and in a manner that ensures optimum progress in advancing our development objectives. To that end, we are looking to grow capacity and systems to ensure that we can further increase ODA contributions in a responsible way while maintaining the high quality for which Ireland’s development co-operation is known internationally.

There you are, 45 seconds just there.

Budget 2020 allocated €20.8 million for ODA, an increase of 2.5% from 2019, resulting in a total ODA package of €837 million. I recognise that budget 2020 was framed in the context of Brexit. As a result, I welcome the increase in ODA. Information released under freedom of information regarding budget negotiations indicates that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated in an email to the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform that in order to remain at the Government target of 0.31%, Vote 27 will require an increase of €50 million and that it recognises, in this difficult economic situation, that further increases in the Government's ODA percentage will be very difficult but requests that the Departments agree a roadmap to reach the Government's commitment of 0.7% by 2030. The email suggests including specific reference to this in the Budget Statement. As far as I am aware, despite the requests from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Minister for Finance did not refer to a roadmap in the Budget Statement. What prospect is there of putting in place a roadmap for this issue?

Both the Tánaiste and I are anxious to see a roadmap put in place. There is no question about that. We have made several references to it in the past. Thankfully, when one speaks about this subject at the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, there is absolute consensus among all members that this is the direction in which we need to go. Last year's increase to the ODA budget was the largest in a decade. This year's increase was somewhat less substantial in the context of competing domestic priorities, most prominently with regard to a possible no-deal Brexit. In the context of that very challenging financial environment, the allocation of €830 million to ODA remains a significant budgetary commitment by the Government to international development. We are well on our way there. We are anxious to reach that goal of 0.7%, which would push us towards €2.5 billion in spending per annum. The earlier public engagement process that led to the publication of our new international development policy in February, A Better World, included a number of significant meetings throughout the country. Thankfully, there is also consensus among the general public that this is the right thing to do. Nobody need have any fear. The Government and all of the political parties represented here are determined that we reach that 0.7% target.

In pre-budget negotiations, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade sought reference to a roadmap in respect of ODA in the Budget Statement but it was not forthcoming.

Will the Minister of State commit to working with relevant stakeholders to develop a realistic and workable roadmap that will set out steps as to how this objective will be achieved? The fulfilment of this ODA target represents an essential commitment, on which the poorest nations depend. Several other countries have met this target and we must actively strive to do the same. I think I know what the Minister of State's answer is going to be, namely, he would like to work with all the parties to bring about this roadmap and to achieve the target, but perhaps he might confirm that.

As I said, we have seen the sixth annual increase in our ODA budget, with the largest ever increase last year. I would argue that is a strong indication of the Government's intent in this area. As I said, we have absolute consensus that this is the direction we need to go in. Let us assume and hope that, in the context of a post-Brexit scenario, where a little bit of certainty is restored to our public finances, we can then begin to collectively work towards such a roadmap.