CIDA Cuts from an Aid Effectiveness View

CAIDC Questions CIDA Cuts from an Aid Effectiveness View

The annex to the recent Budget entitled "Responsible Spending" shows "planned savings" in the International Assistance Envelope of $800.4 million over the three-year period 20012-13 to 2014-15.  Of this total, the "savings" over this period in the resources allocated to CIDA are shown to be $663.5 million.   By anyone's reckoning, this is a significant 'hit' to Canada's overall Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget over the next few years.

Since the Chrétien / Martin budgets in which ODA took a similar hit, it has been clear that cuts to the development assistance budget are relatively easy to make.  First, as Canadian politicians have recognized, poor communities and governments in third-world countries don't get to vote in Canadian general elections. 

Second, there is no strong, organized voice in Canada supporting the interests of the world's poor.  Despite its mandate to educate Canadians on the political, economic and social importance of development activities, CIDA has not performed well on this front in recent years.

Many Civil Society Organizations (CSO's) who are active in the developing countries lack a strong, active base- including in most cases a strong membership base -  in Canada, for obvious reasons; their activities are focused overseas.  To the extent that they do weigh in on issues like spending cuts, their interventions are usually dismissed for reasons of self-interest since many are heavily dependent on CIDA for their very existence. 

So, Canadian Ministers of Finance have realized over the years that when they make cuts to international assistance, they won't generally face very strong opposition, give or take a few write-in campaigns which can be readily discounted for the reasons cited above.  

The international development professionals that CAIDC represents are opposed to the reduction in international development assistance announced in the Budget.  The cuts in programming are short sighted and threaten to adversely affect Canada’s international economic and political influence in the long term.  The breadth of this influence is well documented, from foreign politicians who have studied in Canada with CIDA’s support and who still feel partly Canadian, to local companies that have been supported by CIDA to get on their feet and have become significant trading partners with Canada, to communities whose improved levels of health and education are credited to modest but timely Canadian interventions.

The consensus among economists is that the fastest growing economies are and will continue to be those of the developing world.  Instead of conserving the ability to build relations and influence at this critical time, the budget threatens our diplomatic and development presence in these countries.  This is not the time to be reducing our investments and contacts. 

This being said, CAIDC’s community of development professionals is strongly supportive of increasing the efficiency of CIDA’s operations.  Recent years have seen an increasingly burdensome bureaucracy and significant growth in the number of layers and staff positions within CIDA, at the same time that Canada based programming has been increasingly replaced by large value contributions to multilateral agencies.  These disbursements rarely include clear assurances that the funds effectively promote Canada’s development objectives.  The cuts that are taking place on the front lines of CIDA’s program delivery staff are only going to make this more common.  It would be far more in Canada’s interests to look for efficiencies in process and structure rather than to penalize delivery capacity.

In addition to its own representatives, CIDA has excellent partners in the development community in Canada—non-governmental organizations, companies and individual professionals in the field—who have worked for years to represent Canada’s interests in the world.  We need to preserve and strengthen, not weaken these powerful voices for Canada’s long term benefit.