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Parliamentary committee urges govt to rethink aid cuts to Burundi: The Church of England Newspaper, November 4, 2011 November 9, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Burundi, Church of England Newspaper, Development/Economics/Govt Finances.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The House of Commons International Development Committee has urged the Department for International Development (DfID) to reverse its decision to eliminate direct financial aid to Burundi.

On 5 July 2011, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi testified before the committee that cutting support to Burundi would make it an “aid orphan.” Burundi was one of the “poorest countries” in East Africa the Archbishop said and was “also coming out of a 15-year [civil] war.” In 2005, the country emerged from a tribal civil war that killed 300,000 people.

The conflict left the country devastated, with the lowest recorded GDP per capita in the world, at $150 in 2008. Burundi ranks 166th of 169 countries in the UN’s human development index with 81 per cent of the population living below the poverty line.

“I am worried,” the Archbishop said, as there were signs the conflict could reignite. “The people are not at peace. The signs that we see show that, if we are not careful, there might be another war in Burundi, because most of the young people who were demobilised do not have jobs.

In its report, the committee stated: “We strongly question the strategic coherence of greatly increasing UK aid to the whole region while closing DfID’s bilateral programme in Burundi.

“The money for an effective and efficient bilateral programme in Burundi could be found by very small reductions in the increases in funding of the other countries in the region,” it said.

In 2010 Britain gave £13.7m to Burundi, supporting education, health, access to justice, and regional economic integration programmes. The decision to cut support followed a review of aid programmes instituted by Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary.

In March DfID announced it would reduce the number of bilateral aid programmes from 43 to 27. Burundi was dropped, even though DfID said it had “a compelling case for aid”.

“The government has been clear from day one that our priority is to ensure that every penny of taxpayers’ assistance is directed where it has the most impact for poor people and offers best value for money,” the minister said in March when the cuts were announced.

“As part of a set of detailed reviews, we took the tough but responsible decision that Britain is best placed to help Burundi through other routes to tap into the economic growth in the region and to boost trade with its neighbours. A country-to-country programme is not always the most effective way of providing support,” Mr Mitchell said.

The director of the Anglican Alliance, Sally Keeble urged the government to accept the recommendations of the parliamentary committee.

“The Anglican Church in Burundi acted as a powerful advocate for the people, and the Select Committee has taken on board the Church’s proposals. This report makes the clear case to reinstate the programme in the interests of the people of Burundi and their security. I hope that the Government will listen to the compassionate voice of the Select Committee, and reinstate the programme.”

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