Debate

Stop aid to countries in Europe

Aid to European countries is not aimed at combating poverty and should therefore be discontinued. It writes Lars-Erik Birgegård, consultant with long experience of development assistance.

The goal of Swedish development assistance is to "contribute to creating conditions for poor people to improve their living conditions". That's a good goal. It is clearly and certainly well rooted in values, which a number of Swedes value highly. It is then a reasonable requirement that the assistance is given such a focus and design that it corresponds to this goal. This does not apply to aid to countries in Europe. Therefore, that assistance should be discontinued.

If one divides this summary objection to aid to countries in Europe, there are two crucial reasons to question it.

The first reason is the stated goal of European aid and its focus.

In 2005, the Riksdag adopted a government letter on development cooperation with the countries in the CIS and in the Western Balkans. It clearly states what the intention of the collaboration is.

The introduction says the following.

"Contributing to other countries in the former Soviet Union [other than the Baltic States and Poland] approaching the EU in different respects, and supporting the countries of the Western Balkans in their EU integration, appears to be the long-term most effective way to [achieve the goal for Global Development Policy] ".

The State Government Bill 2008 states that:

"For the countries in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, EU rapprochement is a framework for Swedish development cooperation."

Aid to Eastern Europe and the Balkans is essentially a reform effort to join the EU. These are not measures aimed at assisting the less than XNUMX% of the population of, for example, Albania, Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, who are poor in the absolute sense. How little consideration for poverty has meant in aid to the Balkans is evident from one of the larger individual programs implemented there.

After the war in the Balkans, the international community considered that an important measure was to create conditions for people who had left their homes and fled to return. One would recreate the multicultural society so that people with different ethnic or religious backgrounds could once again live in peaceful coexistence, as if nothing had happened, one is tempted to add. The fund was an offer of support to repair or rebuild their homes.

With these starting points, more than 20.000 families in the Balkans received an average of approximately SEK 80.000 each as a gift from Swedish development assistance. For such sums you get a smaller villa in the Balkans. The question should be rhetorical and thus superfluous, but it still needs to be asked. Should Swedish development assistance, which is to be guided by the goal of helping the poor in the absolute sense, go to families, such as the one in the left picture, or to families living in homes like the one in the right picture?

As if that were not enough, a number of families in the Balkans were helped to start agricultural activities from another Sida-funded program. From there, a family could receive an additional SEK 10-12.000, ie a total of approximately SEK 90.000 as a gift.

The second crucial reason for questioning aid to countries in Europe has to do with the presence of the poor and a country's resources.

In general, a country with greater resources also has a smaller proportion of its population, which is poor. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, which receives Swedish aid, less than 2% of the population lives on one dollar a day. The country's resources measured in gross national income (GNI) per capita amount to more than $ 3.800. In Mozambique, 75% of the population lives on one dollar per day and the country's GNI / individual amounts to less than 400 dollars. Of course, Bosnia and Herzegovina has infinitely greater opportunities to do something about the problems of poverty than Mozambique.

It should be obvious that aid that has poverty reduction as its only goal goes to countries like Mozambique and not to countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It should be obvious that aid that has poverty reduction as its only goal goes to countries like Mozambique and not to countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sweden may well want to help countries in Europe to get closer or become members of the EU. Sweden may also, for security and trade policy reasons, want to cultivate relations with such countries. That is not the question. The question is how such support is financed. To do so with money intended to assist poor people is not merely to override a goal but to betray or hypocrisy of stated values.

Assistance to countries in Europe should cease and the money should be transferred to poverty-oriented measures in countries with a large proportion of their population living in poverty and with little own resources.


Anyone interested in a more detailed discussion can find it at the following link http://larserikbirgegard.wordpress.com/

Lars ‐ Erik Birgegård leb@facilitator.se

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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