As the world today marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Malta is being asked to clean up its spending on foreign aid, at a time when the government’s dialogue with civil society organizations is deteriorating. Sarah Carabott reports.
Malta is being encouraged to stop inflating its development aid figures abroad by considering the money it spends on asylum seekers when such funds do not actually leave the country.
The appeal was made in a report by development NGOs warning that despite a rising poverty rate worldwide, the EU is still failing to meet its own official development assistance (ODA) targets. ).
It is time for member states to step up efforts to support livelihoods and stop playing political games, warned CONCORD, the confederation of aid and development NGOs that drafted the AidWatch 2021 report.
Like the rest of the EU, Malta still does not live up to its promise to allocate 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) to ODA.
In addition, just over a quarter of what it claims to spend on ODA alone is actually considered “genuine help”.
Data on Malta were collected by KOPIN, a member of the local platform SKOP, which is a founding member of CONCORD.
KOPIN’s executive director William Grech explained that Malta considers its expenditure on asylum seekers in the first 12 months of their arrival in Malta as ODA. Therefore, it includes meal contracts awarded to local food suppliers, school and school transportation costs of refugee children. Funds spent on asylum applications, detention centers and open, health and safety are also classified by the government as ODA.
The government also increases scholarship grants to people from developing countries studying in Malta, exemption from university tuition fees, MCAST and junior college and assisted tuition projects. voluntary return in his ODA calculations.
All this money is spent in Malta. “AidWatch is not disputing the fact that these costs could eventually lead to development in countries of origin, through remittances sent to the families of asylum seekers, or skilled migrants returning to work. -but.
“The problem is that when they are reported by donor countries as ODA, these costs are being used to inflate their contribution to what should actually be liquidity in developing countries,” Grech said.
Malta with the highest discrepancy
Across the EU, ODA in 2020 was 0.5 percent of its GNI, up from 0.42 percent in 2019. However, this increase was a result of the declining EU economy due to the global pandemic, according to CONCORD.
On paper, compared to the other 12 countries that have joined the EU since 2004, Malta last year dedicated the highest percentage of its GNI to ODA. However, it also had the highest discrepancy between ODA expenditure and genuine aid.
Malta reported that in 2020 it spent 0.44 per cent of its GNI on ODA, an increase from the 0.3 per cent reported in 2019. In real terms, this is a year-on-year increase of € 14.4 million, to € 51 million.
While this is the fourth consecutive year that Malta has recorded a significant increase over the previous year, AidWatch is concerned that reporting standards have fallen.
The ODA report for 2019 published by the government includes less detail than the previous ones, which hampers attempts to analyze Malta’s performance, he said.
In addition, the annual call for projects of civil society organizations has not been issued for 2020, following a failed attempt at the end of 2019 to link such projects to trade promotion in Ghana and Ethiopia. .
“The change of cabinet in January 2020 has brought a new foreign minister, while the trade promotion portfolio has been reallocated to the ministry of economy.
“The global pandemic has absorbed much of the ministry’s attention, but it is unfortunate that the proposals of civil society organizations to support long-standing partner beneficiaries to face the COVID challenge have been totally ignored.”
And when at the end of 2020 the ministry issued a call for three ‘pre-defined projects’ in Ethiopia and Ghana, the beneficiaries and activities had been identified and pre-defined by the ministry itself.
“This meant that Maltese civil society organizations were effectively restricted to a role of service provision and were deprived of both ownership and the right of initiative.”
The report also warns that the government’s dialogue with civil society has deteriorated.
“The Maltese government has not only refrained from collaborating with civil society in supporting community organizations in partner countries, to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on people most at risk: it has also withdrawn completely from consultation and communication with the development cooperation community. . “
None of the recommendations from last year’s report were taken into account by the Maltese government.
Recommendations for 2022
• Increase the amount of genuine aid and make additional refugee costs to ODA spending targets.
• Increase the transparency of ODA reporting.
• Support civil society organizations to increase their capacity to implement and monitor projects.
• Engage with Maltese civil society and development experts in assessing the Maltese ODA program and policy, assessing, among other things, their effectiveness.
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