Caritas welcomes extra spending on overseas aid given in this year’s Budget but slams the Budget’s failure to address a growing gap between rich and poor.
Caritas CEO Michael Smith said the the Catholic agency for justice, peace and development had asked in its Budget submission that funding be increased to 0.35% of Gross National Income by 2010, and that is exactly what was delivered.
‘This is still only halfway towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of 0.7% by 2015, but it is a significant increase and will help efforts to eliminate poverty.’
Michael Smith said it was especially pleasing that such a step had been made in the 40th anniversary year of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio, which spoke of the responsibility of the international community to address global poverty and injustice.
The Millennium Development Goals were agreed on by the international community, including New Zealand, in the year 2000. Since then, Caritas has joined with other international aid agencies in pressing the New Zealand government to honour its commitment to increase overseas aid.
However, Caritas expressed concern that the Budget does not address the growing hardship of New Zealand’s poorest households.
‘The Ministry of Development’s own Living Standards 2004 report, released last year, revealed that between 2000 and 2004 the proportion of Māori families living in severe hardship increased by 10 percent to 17 percent, while the proportion of Pacific families in severe hardship rose from 15 to 27 percent,’ said Michael Smith.
‘Caritas does not accept the government’s assurances that these figures will have been addressed by the Working for Families package, because much of the assistance in that package was not intended to reach New Zealand’s poorest households, which include those on benefits.’
Michael Smith said the Budget announcements about Kiwisaver, which provide opportunities and incentives to save, are worthwhile. However, many low-income households will simply not have enough income to meet both day-to-day needs and to join the scheme.
‘While we recognise that many New Zealanders are better off than they used to be, it is worrying that overall inequality continues to rise, and that there is still a section of society that is experiencing worsening living standards.’
Caritas welcomed the removal of tax rebate limits for donations to charitable organisations, saying this may encourage more New Zealanders to support work such as that undertaken by Caritas. However, Michael Smith noted that it was important that work in the community and nongovernmental sector is understood to complement, rather than to replace, the government’s responsibilities.
For more information, please contact: Lisa Beech, Caritas research and advocacy officer 04-496-1742