EU to RP: ‘Donorland is not Disneyland’

Published by rudy Date posted on April 21, 2009

Europe’s top aid official yesterday admonished developing Asian countries such as the Philippines to improve governance and not to rely on foreign support, saying not one country has been able to rise from poverty through financial help alone.

But even as he said it, Koos Richelle, European Commission director general of the EuropeAid Cooperation Office, said Europe’s assistance to developing Asian states will not decline in the next six years amid the global financial crisis, although he noted that recipients must prove that the money is being used effectively.

“Donorland is not Disneyland. Development aid alone can never be enough to change the quality of people’s lives,” Richelle said in his opening remarks before a gathering of over 100 senior government officials and politicians from 43 countries across Asia and Europe to discuss current global challenges affecting the two regions in Manila.

According to Richelle, sustainable development “has to be led by quality leadership and governance within individual countries.”

The EU is one of the country’s largest providers of development assistance and aid, particularly in Mindanao, apart from the United States, Japan and Australia. It has provided support to alleviate the plight of tens of thousands of villagers displaced by the fighting between troops and Muslim rebels starting in August last year.

But Malacañang appears to still bank on foreign aid.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto, for his part, said the country would likely miss several millenium development goal (MDG) targets in the reduction of poverty citing the global economic crisis as a reason.

In his remarks to open the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) Development Conference in Makati City yesterday Recto said likely to be missed are goals on net employment rate, maternal mortality, and access to reproductive health care.

“Disparities and inequalities across areas, population groups and sectors are widely evident. We anticipate setbacks as a result of the global economic crisis,” he said.

To meet the target before the 2015 deadline, the country needs “increased and sustained” assistance from development partners through an increase in official development assistance (ODA) loans.

Aside from increasing ODA, we also reiterate our call on the Paris Club of donors to the country to consider the proposal of the Philippines for debt-for-MDGs swap.

He said the implementation of this program could help developing countries like the Philippines rechannel its resources from debt repayment to programs and projects toward achieving the MDGs.

“Early this year, Germany discussed with our government the option of a debt swap for our health sector programs worth 25 million euros,” he said.

We hope other bilateral partners would offer the same, he added.

Recto also cited achievements in meeting other MDGs.

“We have already achieved five years ago, in 2004, the target for access to sanitary toilet facilities; the proportion of people living in extreme poverty decreased from 24.3 percent in 1991 to 14.6 percent in 2006 — well on its way to meeting the 2015 target,” he said. Prevalence of underweight preschool children declined from 34.5 percent in 1990 to 24.6 percent in 2005. Infant mortality rate declined from 57 to 24 deaths between 1990 to 2006, while under-five mortality rate dropped from 80 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 32 deaths in 2006.

The prevalence of HIV and AIDS has been kept below the national target of 1 percent, and access to safe drinking water increased from 73.7 percent in 1991 to 80.2 percent in 2004.

“As we strive to ensure sustainable development, we need to be reminded that not a single country has been lifted out of poverty as a result of development aid alone,” Richelle said.

The key factor, he stressed, “has proved to be the quality of leadership and governance.

Richelle also said European assistance to Asia would continue despite the worldwide financial crunch.

“Donors are willing to put more money on the table. The EU remains committed to its target of providing aid equal to 0.7 percent of Gross National Income by 2015,” he said.

But Richelle reminded receiving states to put the aid into good use since Europe’s parliaments, particularly its taxpayers, “have become more and more interested in seeing tangible results.”

The two-day Asia Europe Meeting, which concludes Tuesday, aims to seek ways in addressing the global financial crisis, climate change, social cohesion, the effectiveness of development aid to poor and developing countries, and discuss how nations could meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, Asem states represent half of the world’s Gross Domestic Product, almost 60 percent of the world’s population and 60 per cent of global trade.

Its members include: Austria, Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) Secretariat, Belgium, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mongolia, Myanmar, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom, and Vietnam. –Michaela P. del Callar, Daily Tribune

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