G8 makes ‘cautious’ aid pledge

Summit allots $5bn for Africa before G20 meets on contentious economic issues.

Demonstrators protesting the G8/G20 summits
Protests were held in Toronto against the G8 and G20 summits over a variety of issues [AFP]

Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, said that he was confident the G8 would meet the more modest goal, promising to contribute $1.1bn to the total pledged.

“Because of the tight budgetary situations we are seeing in many countries … my observation is that leaders have actually been very very cautious in terms of the pledges that have been made,” Harper said.

Unfulfilled pledges

G8 and development officials said the G8 summit in Huntsville, north of Toronto, would omit any reference to the unfulfilled Gleneagles pledges when it issues its final communique on Saturday.

While the group collectively broke its aid promises, the US, Britain and Canada delivered what they promised in Gleneagles.

Italy delivered none of its funding, while Germany, France and Japan gave less than promised, said ONE, an anti-poverty group that tracks the aid.

During Friday’s meeting, US and British leaders pressed other rich nations to deliver on their aid promises.

“I think it is frustrating that world leaders sign up to things and then don’t deliver them and we have to make sure that happens,” David Cameron, the British prime minister, said.

The White House said in a statement that Barack Obama, the US president, was urging transparency and accountability in the G8.

“The president believes that the credibility of the G8 rests on the willingness of its members to honour their commitments by reporting transparently on progress and identifying areas where additional effort is required,” the statement said.

Larger summit

The World Bank has warned that progress made so far in developing countries could be set back if aid levels declined further, pushing more people into poverty.

“That’s the delicate balance that we need to try to strike this weekend”

Jim Flaherty, Canada’s finance minister

The G8 meeting in the lakeside community provides a contrast to the hectic urban pace of Toronto, where other contentious economic issues await the larger Group of 20 summit on Saturday and Sunday.

Timothy Geithner, the US treasury secretary, said that each nation at the summit needs to find the right policy mix to reduce government budgets and support growth.

Much of the discussions are expected focus on those policies needed to reduce budgets and aid global growth.

The Europeans want to focus on austerity measures to cut the deficits, while the US is looking to maintain stimulus spending to encourage growth.

“That’s the delicate balance that we need to try to strike this weekend,” Jim Flaherty, Canada’s finance minister, said.

Bank tax issues

The issue of a bank tax is also up for debate, with Britain, France, Germany and the US all publicly encouraging other G20 nations to accept the tax.

However, Canada, Russia, China, India and Australia have shown opposition to the move.

The banking industry is widely blamed for stoking the global recession via provision of unsustainable loans and questionable trading practises.

Sameer Dossani, the former campaign director of Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera that the tax, at the level as proposed by Germany and France, is probably not big enough to make a difference.

“But some version of that could be big enough to limit the amount of financial transactions that we see,” Dossani said.

“Right now we have 90 per cent of global economic transactions in this shadow economy, which should serve people and not the other way around. We need a bigger tax to do that.”

He also said that tax havens were an issue as many major corporations were exporting much of their profits without paying taxes.

“Corporations need to pay taxes in the countries where they are making their profits.”

Consensus also needs to be reached on new rules governing the amount of capital that banks must hold, and ensuring that national financial regulatory reforms do not clash on the global stage.

Poor countries

Although the G8 cannot avoid talking about its own economic troubles, the richest nations carved out time to discuss problems facing poor countries.

Leaders from Haiti, Jamaica and African nations Senegal, Algeria, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt were invited to the meeting.

The goal for mother-and-child health is a particular concern, with the World Bank reporting “fragile and uneven” progress in reducing maternal deaths, a major burden for countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

An estimated 350,000 mothers and 8.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year due to preventable diseases and limited or no access to healthcare, development groups say.

Japan said it would offer up to $500 million in more aid over five years to prevent mothers and newborns from dying.

Development groups expressed disappointment at the outcome.

“Yet again the G8 are making pledges good enough for a photo call but insufficient to meet the needs of the millions of people living in poverty worldwide,” Henry Malumo, ActionAid’s Africa spokesman, said.

Demonstrations are expected in Toronto on a variety of causes including the environment and global poverty, with many activists opposing gatherings of the rich and powerful.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies