Taoiseach sticks to goals on overseas funding
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night insisted Ireland would fulfil its ambitious targets on overseas aid but conceded the economic recession would make it difficult.
Declining to categorically state if the Government would reach its budgetary target of giving 0.57pc of GNP to overseas aid in 2009, Mr Cowen would only insist that the 2012 targets of 0.7pc would be achieved.
Last night, there was speculation that further to the €45m cutbacks in overseas aid in last year's budget, a further cutback in the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) budget may now be imminent.
"How we get there (2012) is a matter from year to year. Obviously, we'll be looking at it in what is a more difficult budgetary situation this year and our commitment of 0.7pc by 2012 still stands," he said.
"It won't be easy. It's not easy but it's our commitment. It's what we have to achieve."
The Taoiseach was speaking after launching the Hunger Task Force Report in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, economist Jeffrey Sachs and Third World campaigner Bono in the UN headquarters in New York yesterday morning. Amid claims from Trocaire that the Taoiseach's "credibility is on the line" if he cuts foreign aid after launching a major report on hunger, Mr Cowen insisted Ireland's commitment could not be questioned.
"I don't think our credibility is on the line at all.
"I think our credibility has been enhanced over successive years of very significant funding being made available since this administration took office 10 years ago.
"It's a sea change in the level of commitment that we are providing."
Lending support to the Government's commitment, Third World campaigner Bono said he was confident that Ireland would achieve its 2012 goal.