Foreign aid recipients hurt by global economic concerns

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair meets With UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in London, England.

Mitchell Hartman: Today UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon warned rich countries not to shortchange their international aid programs as they cut their budgets. He spoke at a conference in South Korea.

Amy Barry joins us. She works for the aid watchdog group Publish What You Fund. Good morning, Amy.

Amy Barry: Good morning.

Hartman: Let me first ask, what impact is the financial crisis -- both the several years of crisis that we've had, and now more acute worries that Europe and possibly the global economy would be teetering back into recession -- what effect is that having on foreign aid?

Barry: There's no doubt that the financial crisis, which is largely being experienced in developed countries, is putting a lot of pressure on foreign aid budgets. The economic context in which these traditional aid donors find themselves is also turning the spotlight on emerging donors who are actually not suffering the same financial straits, such as China and other BRIC countries.

Hartman: And those countries don't give anythign like the amount of aid still given by the U.S., Germany, Japan, etc., but they give the aid in a slightly different way, don't they?

Barry: That's absolutely right, traditional donors made a series of promises to change the way they gave aid to make it more transparent, to make it more based on results. Now it's important, and what's been on the agenda this week, is how you get emerging donors to buy into those sort of promises as well.

Hartman: Are there fears emerging among the receiving nations that perhaps a change in U.S. political administration in November could lead to a significant decrease in U.S. foreign assistance?

Barry: I think there's a genuine fear on the part of developing countries and aid activists that the current financial crisis around the western world will lead to countries cutting their budgets. Ban Ki Moon said today that was something we needed to look out for. So I think we need to call on the traditional donors to defend their aid as the secretary general did today, to keep their aid levels up, and for the emerging donors to step up and see what they can do the help poor countries as well.

Hartman: Amy Barry is with the aid watchdog group Publish What You Fund. Thanks very much for joining us Amy.

Barry: Not at all, thank you.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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