Poor Countries can’t afford the SDGs without more Aid

Global Development

The latest update from the OECD shows that donors are continuing to slash aid to least developed countries, falling by 16% in 2014 alone. If this trend continues, how will this impact the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? What will happen if world leaders fail to redirect this pattern at the Financing for Development Summit in July?

An ODI report released this week tackles these questions head on. The costs of achieving three central elements of the SDGs, ending extreme poverty, ensuring every child receives a basic education and providing universal health care are compared to the financial resources available in low income countries. The best available estimates of the costs involved in reaching these SDGs, from sources such as UNESCO, show that the annual amount required for low income countries is $148 billion. This is significantly higher than the finance available in these countries that is estimated to be $75 billion a year. This figure is a combination of half of these countries revenue capacity and existing aid flows. Revenue capacity is estimated by using World Bank and IMF estimates of the optimal level of revenue that could be collected given a country’s stage of development. Only 50% of revenue capacity and aid flows are used because countries face many costs outside the social sectors, such as infrastructure, and on average OECD governments only spend around half of their revenue on social protection, education and health.

Low income countries collectively face a financing gap of $73 billion to be able to meet these SDGs. However some countries are much closer to the amount required than others. The graph below shows the size of the finance gap on a country by country basis for low income countries, ordered in terms of GNI per capita. The richest low income countries, like Kenya, are over three-quarters of the way towards covering the costs. While the poorest countries, like Burundi, are not even able to cover a quarter of the costs of the SDGs.

Financing the Future

The global financing summit planned in July provides an opportunity to tackle these huge financing gaps required for the achievement of the poverty, health and education SDGs. This analysis identifies that relying on more taxes in low income countries will not be enough to ensure a global minimum standard of living for all. In addition to current levels, more aid will be required to pay for the shortfall.

But is it affordable? There are at least three reasons to believe that it is entirely affordable for the world to provide the additional finance required for low income countries to reach the SDGs:

  • Within existing commitments – The extra finance required to meet these goals are well within the bounds of existing international aid commitments. Furthermore if current levels of international support was better targeted towards low income countries than most of the additional finance needed could be found.
  • Small relative to other expenditure – The additional finance required to close the gap in low income countries only amounts to 4% of what the UK government spent on the 2008 financial crisis bank bail-out or less than 1% of global healthcare spending.
  • It has never been as affordable as it is now. Take ending extreme poverty for example, less than 15% of the world’s population live in extreme poverty today compared to around half three decades ago and if current trends continue it is expected to reduce to around 5% by 2030. As the number of people in extreme poverty has reduced so has the cost, as only a fraction of one percent of world GDP would be required to bring everyone above the extreme poverty line.

To find out more check out the report available at: http://www.odi.org/financing-future

Balancing the Books on the Backs of the Poor

Australian Aid Policy

Key Points

  • This year Australia will provide less than 0.25% of GNI in aid, which is around one third of its international commitment to reach 0.7% of GNI by 2015.
  • Successive Australian Governments have cut a total of almost $20 billion from the aid budget in recent years, after abandoning a domestic commitment to give 0.5% of GNI in aid by 2015.
  • As a result of these aid cuts, Australia provides around 1/5 as much aid as the United Kingdom (UK) despite Australia being in a much stronger economic position.


Australia has fallen spectacularly short of its international commitment to provide 0.7% of GNI in aid by 2015. This would have equated to providing less than 3% of the Government’s budget in aid, however Australia only provides around 1% (see here).

Successive Australian Governments have cut the aid budget six times in three years, which was justified as necessary to help with balancing the government’s books. This had led to an abandoning of a bipartisan agreement to increase the aid budget to reach 0.5% of GNI by 2015. Therefore while global aid flows are increasing, Australian aid is shrinking (see here). The chart below shows how this year, Australia’s aid budget will shrink to around one-third of its international commitment and less than half of its domestic commitment.


Australia’s lack of aid generosity compares unfavourably to many other aid donors, especially the United Kingdom. In the same week as the UK parliament passed a law to provide 0.7% of GNI in aid, the Australian Prime Minister described Australia’s vicious aid cuts as ‘modest’. This is despite Australia being in a significantly better economic position than the UK, as can be seen in the table below. Australia has an income per person more than 50% higher than the UK and Australia has only around 20% the level of government debt, yet it provides only 1/5 the level of aid.


While the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, famously said the UK would not ‘balance the books on the backs of the poor’, it appears Australia is trying to do just that.


World Bank 2015 <http://data.worldbank.org/data-catalog/world-development-indicators>

IMF 2015 <http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2014/02/weodata/index.aspx>

OECD 2015 <http://www.oecd.org/dac/stats/idsonline.htm>

The Next Millennium Development Goals?

Global Development

One year ago, a panel of world leaders (including David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister) released a report about the next Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The purpose of the report was to suggest goals to be achieved by 2030, which can follow on from the MDGs (due to expire in 2015). This September these goals will be voted upon by world leaders and are shown below:

The Next MDGs?

Among policy makers these goals have grown in popularity, however civil society groups are yet to heavily promote them. The exception to this is the first goal, which is to End Poverty by 2030. Organizations such as the Global Poverty Project have mobilized large numbers of people in support of this goal.

Please consider sharing these goals with your friends and colleagues. If you want them to be changed, contact your local politicians and join civil society groups that are trying to influence them. After all, decisions about what the world should be aiming for by 2030 are far too important to be left to policy makers alone.

Read the full report here: http://www.post2015hlp.org/the-report/



Are Developing Countries too dependent on Aid?

Global Development

Key Points

  • Aid as a share of Gross National Income (GNI) in developing countries has remained below 1% for the last 20 years. In 2012, it reached the lowest level ever recorded.
  • Least Developed Countries receive more than ten times as much aid as a share of GNI as Middle Income Countries.
  • The Pacific receives the highest level of aid as a share of GNI for any region in the world.


A great deal of attention is given to the level of aid as a share of GNI that developed countries provide, however less attention is given to aid as a share of GNI that developing countries receive. This measure is important to examine because it provides insight into how dependent developing countries are on aid. While there is a considerable variation between countries, the chart below shows that on average aid to developing countries has remained below 1% of GNI for the last 20 years.

Aid as a share of Developing World GNI

Least Developed Countries (LDCs) receive significantly more aid as a share of GNI than Middle Income Countries. However on average aid as a share of GNI is still below 5% in LDCs. As the chart below shows as countries’ incomes increase they tend to become considerably less dependent on aid.

Aid as a share of GNI (Income level)

There is tremendous variation in the level of aid as a share of GNI across regions. The chart below shows that the Pacific region receives almost 10% of GNI in aid. The low level of aid as a share of GNI for East Asia is partly due to high economic growth in the region in recent decades that has reduced dependence on aid.

Aid as share of GNI (Regional)

On average, there is little reason to believe that developing countries are too dependent on aid. However for some countries this concern may be more valid. For example, the Solomon Islands have received around 40% of GNI in aid for the last decade.


OECD 2014 <http://www.oecd.org/dac/stats/idsonline.htm>

Global Aid flows are going up, while Australian Aid is going down

Australian Aid Policy, Global Development

Key Points

  • Global aid flows reached the highest level ever in 2013, according to the latest OECD data released on Tuesday. In 2013, around US$135 billion was provided in aid, which is six percent increase from 2012.
  • The majority of developed countries increased their aid budgets, however Australia’s aid spending declined by almost five percent.
  • In 2013, Australia had the highest median income, the 4th highest income per person, the 8th largest economy but only the 10th largest aid budget in the OECD.


Since 2012, the Australian Government has cut the aid budget five times. This is out of step with Australia’s international commitments and most other donors who are scaling up their aid programs. The latest data, released by the OECD on Tuesday, shows that while global aid flows are increasing, Australian aid is declining. In 2013, global aid flows reached the highest level ever. As the chart below shows, aid has increased above pre-Global Financial Crisis levels.

Total Aid

Australia is clearly against the trend by reducing its aid budget. The chart below shows that while most donors increased their aid budgets in 2013, Australia reduced its aid budget by almost 5%. Of the donors that did reduce their aid budget, most were still recovering from the European economic crisis, such as Portugal and Greece.

Change in Aid Budget 

It is clearly disappointing to see Australia fall in the international aid rankings. On any measure of economic prosperity Australia is one of the richest countries in the world. In 2013, Australia had the highest median income, the 4th highest income per person and the 8th largest economy in the OECD, but only the 10th largest aid budget. This is set to decline even further in coming years due to recent aid budget cuts announced by the Australian Government.


Credit Suisse 2014 <https://www.credit-suisse.com/ch/en/news-and-expertise/research/credit-suisse-research-institute/publications.html>

IMF 2014 <http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2013/01/>

OECD 2014 <http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/aid-to-developing-countries-rebounds-in-2013-to-reach-an-all-time-high.htm>