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G8 finance ministers try to duck discussion of their failure on aid to Africa

G8 Finance Ministers are desperately trying to avoid any discussion of their failure to deliver promised aid to Africa, says international agency, Oxfam ahead of the G8 Finance Ministers meeting (18 - 19 May) in Potsdam, Germany.

Although five African finance ministers are attending the meeting, G8 ministers are hoping to keep discussion to a small initiative on budget transparency in Africa and avoid all discussion of the massive shortfall in promised aid.

Despite promises made at the G8 summit in 2005 to increase aid by $50bn a year, recent figures from the OECD show that in 2006 aid to Africa barely changed, and overall aid actually fell. Research published by Oxfam International last week reveals that on current trends the G8 could miss its aid promise by $30 billion. Italy is predicted to be $8.1bn short on its promise, France $7.6bn and Germany $7bn.

In previous years this final meeting of finance ministers before the G8 summit is the place where deals are struck but this year ministers are instead trying to avoid any discussion let alone action on their failure to increase aid. Oxfam is calling on the G8 finance ministers to use this vital meeting to collectively agree clear annual aid increases to get back on track to meet their aid promises.

“The G8 cannot ignore the elephant in the room, their failure to meet their promises to Africa. This weekend is where the G8 money men could easily come up with the missing aid to ensure their leaders avoid embarrassment in front of the world next month in Heiligendamm,” said Max Lawson of Oxfam.

“The amounts needed are pocket change for the G8 economies, but are life and death for millions in Africa. Of course African countries should be transparent with their budgets and improve financial governance, and many are doing just that, but this cannot be used as an excuse to avoid discussion of the G8's own financial failings.”

Many governments in Africa are fighting corruption, improving accountability and transparency, and spending aid effectively. Increased aid has helped the Tanzanian governments make primary school free, with the result that 3.5 million more children are now in school and the number of children dying in their first year of life has been reduced by a third. Aid is also directly promoting good governance by funding civil society in many countries to hold their governments to account.

“In the two years since Gleneagles, 21 million children under five have died from preventable diseases - the equivalent of every child under five in Germany, France, Canada, Japan, Italy and the UK. The financial cost to the G8 of increasing aid is just one tenth of military spending but the human cost is millions of lives,” said Lawson.

Oxfam is also calling on the G8 finance ministers to support proposals to curb the activities of so called ‘vulture funds’ which aim to profit by buying up a poor country’s debt at a bargain price and then pursuing it for a vastly inflated figure through the courts. In the most recent case, Donegal International successfully sued the government of Zambia and won $15million - almost three times what they paid for the debt and over a third of what Zambia is projected to save in debt relief in 2007.

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