(Tämä kolumni julkaistiin Helsinki Timesin MP Talk -palstalla 21.6.2012.)
It is well known that Finland, among other developed countries, has made a commitment to donate 0.7% of the country’s GNP as official development assistance (ODA) by 2015. The 0.7% pledge is yet to be reached; our current percentage of ODA is 0.56. As part of the UN community we are also working towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000. There has been some positive development with respect to the MDGs, for instance halving the extreme poverty. Yet a lot remains to be done.
My political home, The Finns party has been criticized for its view on development aid. To get things straight, we are not suggesting that Finland should stop all aid. We strongly support emergency relief operations, for example. We think just that too much of our ODA ends up in administration and too little goes to actual development. In economic terms, the return of investment should be larger. The Finns Party suggests cutting ODA when necessary for the nation’s own good. Given the current political and economic situation in Europe – for instance this summer Finland is practically donating €1.44 billion to save the sinking south of the Eurozone – raising our ODA quota should not be the priority. Instead, the lesser resources should be put to use more practically and efficiently. Most development work should be done on the spot and with local people in charge.
As a chair to the Finnish IPU, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, I have focused a lot on development aid issues. Recently I attended an IPU Assembly in Uganda where politicians gathered to discuss the challenges of the world’s poorest countries from a wide range of angles. What always strikes me though is how differently the average people outside the assembly halls conceive of the necessary means to their countries’ development.
– “Why do you think Africa needs development aid?”, a local reporter asked me during an interview. His stance was much like mine: He thought what Africa really needed from us was business partnership, mentoring and investments, especially when they try to improve their business within the African continent, but internationally, too. The developed countries should stop treating countries like Uganda and Rwanda as only war-stricken wastelands and start benefiting from business opportunities with them. That would create real and sustained development. We should measure the results of the aid rather than counting how much money is spent. If better results are achieved with less money, we have done better.
Yet my biggest concern is overpopulation. It is the utmost threat to the developing countries, thwarting all the development efforts in the long run. For example, Uganda’s population is estimated to triple in the next 40 years. The unemployment rate is already alarmingly high and welfare services scarce but adding the strong population growth to the equation could at worst cause a violent eruption. It is crucial that the governments of the developing countries start dealing with this issue in a credible way.
I believe that charity begins at home. Therefore I was happy to learn that according to the World Bank’s estimate, in 2008 the developing countries received over €200 billion from their citizens working or living abroad. That is over double the OECD countries’ annual ODA combined. Hence, the money transfers from our guest workers support families back home in the developing countries much more than the official aid.