"Denmark, Norway, Netherlands and Sweden remain the traditional leaders to meet the U.N. target of 0.7 pre cent of GNP."











"External debt stocks of developing countries increased by eight percent to reach 1,000 billion at the ned of 1995."










"Much of the ODA included in the OECD figures was aid tied to the purchase of goods and services from the donor countries."

OECD development vision for 21st century: Poorest losing out yet again

LONDON, Feb 5 (G-77/IPS) - Official development assistance (ODA) - as a percentage of the gross national product (GNP) of donor countries - had fallen to its lowest recorded level, 0.27 percent, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The OECD, comprising the world’s 29 most industrialised countries who account for 90 percent of the world’s development assistance, outlined what it called a people-centred and participatory vision of development cooperation in the 21st century.

The annual report of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) revealed that in terms of volume, ODA in current dollars was about 59 billion dollars in 1995 - about the same as in 1994.

That figure, however, was ‘’deceptive because there was a weak dollar,’’ said DAC Chairman James Michel. There was a decline of about nine percent in real terms when the figure was adjusted for exchange rate fluctuations and inflation.

The decline was widespread, with 14 of the 21 members of DAC reporting declines in real volumes of ODA, according to Michel.

As a percentage of GNP, the traditional leaders - Denmark, Norway, Netherlands and Sweden - remained on top. They were the only countries to meet the U.N. target for ODA of 0.7 percent of GNP.

The figure for Italy and the United States both fell below 0.2 percent and the aggregate figure of 0.27 percent was ‘’the lowest its ever been, since statistics first were recorded,’’ Michel said.
Geographically, 40 percent of the ODA went to Africa, 30 percent to Asia, 10 percent to Latin America and 20 percent to other and unallocated recipients.

‘’It is a concern that there is at least a stagnation and some decline in ODA levels,’’ Michel said. ‘’I have commented (in the annual report) on what this means for the credibility of the (OECD) strategy when you get into a dialogue with developing countries and say ‘OK, we are counting on more self-reliance’.

‘’What that means is we are cutting our aid. That’s not a good beginning. I hope we will see a leveling off and I hope there will be an increasing realisation that this is important.’’

Michel’s comments assumed greater significance because the report also noted that external debt stocks of developing countries increased by eight percent to reach 1091 billion dollars at the end of 1995.

There was a ‘’phenomenal growth’’ in private flows to development countries, accounting for 160 billion dollars or two-thirds of all resource flows, Michel said. But the report showed that hardly any of the private flows went to the least developed or low-income countries.

When, however, it came to investing in the upper middle-income countries - such as Botswana, Brazil, Malaysia and Mexico - private flows led the way.

The latest report drew heavily on the OECD’s development strategy agreed in May 1995 by development cooperation ministers and heads of aid agencies, which outlines, among others, the following:

- Strategies for success were available - integrating elements such as health, education, population, gender equity, human rights, good governance and sustainable environmental practices;
- Developing countries were themselves ultimately responsible for their own development and must be ‘’owners’’ of their own policies and programmes;
- Bilateral and multilateral development assistance must be managed for maximum efficiencyand effectiveness; and
Development experts in London ssaid the OECD’s plans to put developing countries in the driver’s seat were in immediate danger of being derailed because of a variety of reasons.

‘’I am deeply concerned that the least developed countries are starved of official and private flows,’’ said Andrew Simms of the non-governmental organisation (NGO), Christian Aid. ‘’My fear is also that these optimistic targets will not be achieved unless the resources are made available.’’

Simms also said it was ‘’too simplistic’’ to put the onus of development on developing countries, whose actions are constrained by ‘’parameters such as structural adjustment programmes set by the aid agencies and by the regulatory functions of the World Trade Organisation.’’

‘’We have seen 20 years worth of structural adjustment programmes in Africa, and it's not delivering the upturn in investment,’’ he said. ‘’The tone of the OECD’s report is upbeat and full of nice words. But where is the money coming from for the poorest countries? All the trends included in the report point to the poorest losing out yet again.’’

Alex Wilkes of the Brettenwoods Project, another NGO, pointed out that much of the ODA included in the OECD figures was aid tied to the purchase of goods and services from the donor countries.

‘’These figures should come under the budgets of the departments of trade or industry,’’ Wilkes said, adding, ‘’I didn’t think the report was very visionary. It was nothing but giving with one hand and taking away with the other.’’