A generous country?By John Longhurst
If there’s one thing Canadians pride themselves on, it’s our generosity.
Although a small country, population-wise, we have always considered it our special opportunity and responsibility to share generously with poorer nations.
We have also imagined ourselves as a country that wants to lead by example. It was a Canadian, after all, who came up with the idea that the world’s richest nations should pledge a certain amount of the Gross National Income to help people in the developing world.
That was back in 1969, when former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson suggested that rich nations set a target of sharing 0.7 percent of GNI with poor countries. It was adopted by the United Nations in 1970 and held up as a goal ever since.
Sadly, Canada — like most rich countries — has never met that target. And now, following the most recent federal budget, we will be slipping even further behind.
The new federal budget, which was unveiled March 29, will reduce Canada’s Overseas Development Assistance by $790 million over the next five years, dropping it from $5.6 billion to $4.8 billion.
The cut will make Canada one of the least generous of the world’s traditional aid donor countries, as a percentage of GNI. It will fall by almost $600 million in this fiscal year alone.
What this means for Canadians is that our aid, which now stands at 0.34 percent of GNI, will fall to about 0.24 percent by 2015 — a near-historic low.
Countries that will be hardest hit by the cut to Canadian foreign aid include some of the world’s poorest countries, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Benin, Niger, Cambodia, Nepal, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Bolivia, Mozambique, Pakistan and Tanzania.
Unfortunately, Canada is not the only country cutting foreign aid in an effort to get its financial house in order. The Dutch and Spanish governments also made historic cuts to their aid budgets in March. At the same time, the aid budgets of other rich countries are stagnant or declining.
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