Yesterday I presented an “Agenda for Change”, my proposals about changes in EU development policy. I am happy to see open and franc discussions about it the media, on Twitter and in other sources. I want to thank everybody for comments, but I would also like to clarify some misunderstandings.
I read the comments of NGOs and I am glad to see that most of them welcomed the proposed direction of our policy, although they raised some criticism, too. It seems to me that the main confusion circulates around the notion that we will promote economic growth and private sector and move away from helping the poor people.
Let me be very clear – this is not what I am proposing. Minimum 20% of our aid will go to education, health and other social issues. But we all know, as this is the case in Europe too, that you cannot build wealth on social services alone. People need income and therefore need jobs.
I will give you an example of what I have in mind. In my blog from South Africa, I shared with you that I visited a small company, Afrika Biopharma, which is 100% black-owned and employs only local people. The director told me that without the support of the Commission’s Risk Capital Facility he could have never accessed the credit needed to set up the business. He employs now 85 people and the Risk Capital Facility allowed 10,000 people to get jobs.
This is what I call a good, sustainable project with great results; and this is an example of good investment in the private sector.
It is also obvious that countries won’t pull themselves out of poverty unless they can find a way to grow. Let’s take a look at Timor Leste, where EU assistance has been critical to the country’s robust economic growth of about 35% over the last three years. Other remarkable results include lower poverty levels, 83% school enrolment and a rise in life expectancy from nearly 46 years in 1990 to 61 and a half years in 2009. So EU aid really can be a catalyst for growth which benefits the poor.
There are also some doubts about pulling EU aid from some emerging and middle income countries. But I think it is clear for everybody that we cannot work with India or Brazil in the same way we work with the Democratic Republic of Congo or Mali. Some countries can now afford to fight poverty themselves and, as a result, this will allow us to focus on places that need more of our help.
Of course, I am aware that poverty pockets exist in middle-income countries and will continue to cooperate with these countries on many urgent issues such as fight against HIV/AIDS. But in reality, EU aid levels are not high in comparison with the budget of these countries and can have higher impact in least developed countries, for instance.
This will be done gradually and in a smart and coherent way; not at the expense of the poor people. We will work on setting transparent and objective criteria that are clear to everybody, especially to our partner countries, so can be sure that no other motives drive our decision making process.
And stopping aid is actually good news. A result of successful development is that aid should eventually stop and the people can create future for themselves. I really hope that one day we will not need aid any more. With our new policy proposals, we are one step closer to our goal.