Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The government lies about aid

Keith Locke took the government to task about our pathetic levels of foreign aid in Question Time yesterday, which resulted in this patsy exchange:

Hon Phil Goff: Can the Minister confirm that the increase in development assistance in the Budget last year—21 percent—gave us, in fact, the highest-ever level of official development assistance in this country’s history?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is indeed true. We have moved from 0.22 percent to 0.27 percent—and, indeed, next year it is due to reach 0.28 percent—of GDP.

Unfortunately for Cullen, it is demonstrably not true (at least, not in the percentage-of-GDP/GNI terms he is discussing it in). Here's a graph of New Zealand's level of official development assistance expressed as a percentage of GNI.

(Source: here [PDF])

Neither is his previous claim that our aid levels are "almost exactly the weighted average for the OECD countries that give aid". According to the OECD [PDF], the "average country effort" for all OECD donors is 0.47 percent of GNI. Our aid levels are therefore not just significantly below the targets we have agreed to meet, but also below the OECD average. But to be fair, Cullen did say "weighted average"; unfortunately he didn't specify how the figures were weighted, and allow us to determine whether it was relevant, or just a way of making the figures look better.

Is it really too much to ask that the government doesn't respond to criticism with outright lies?


I was starting to comment that the statement might be true, but noticed you added this: "at least, not in the percentage-of-GDP/GNI terms he is discussing it in" - it could just be that Dr Cullen is making two separate statements.

As for weighted average here's what I would guess the distinction was:

OECD figure = Total aid of all OECD economies / Total GDP of all OECD economies

Weigted Average Figure = (sum of (aid of each OECD economy / GDP of that economy)) / number of number of OECD economies.

e.g. three countries:
Country 1 - GDP 1000; aid 1
Country 2 - GDP 10000; aid 20
Country 3 - GDP 100000; aid 500

Average Country Effect = 0.47%
Weighted Average = 0.27%

But who knows?

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 7/19/2006 12:30:00 PM

Outright lies is what you get from any lomg-term govt, once it's out of steam and barely half a step ahead of police investigations.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/20/2006 10:06:00 PM