The bulk of the €230,000 the government allocated as overseas development assistance (ODA) for this year went towards rescuing and accommodating refugees, Foreign Affairs Minister Tonio Borg said.
"There is nothing essentially wrong in that because we are offering assistance - whether it is search and rescue, accommodation or food - which covers the livelihood of people who are in need and who arrived in Malta and who will, ultimately, be released," he said during a seminar on the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Through his declaration, Dr Borg confirmed the concerns that non-governmental development organisations (NGDOs) have long been voicing when they repeatedly called on the government not to include refugee expenses and debt relief in the official reporting of ODA.
SKOP, the national platform of Maltese NGDOs, has also been asking the government for a transparent breakdown of the Malta ODA, but this was never released.
Replying to a parliamentary question tabled by Labour MP Leo Brincat in June, Dr Borg had said its only obligation was to inform the European Commission of the global ODA figure and what it amounted to in relation to the gross national income to ensure Malta was abiding by its commitments enshrined in the MDGs.
These goals were agreed to by 189 nations - including Malta - in 2000 and pledged, among other things, to halve extreme poverty, halt the spread of AIDS/HIV and provide universal primary education by 2015.
Malta also undertook a commitment to give 0.33 per cent of its gross national income as ODA by that time.
Speaking during the seminar, organised by SKOP, Dr Borg admitted that the €230,000 earmarked for this year's ODA may be low, but this figure only referred to direct monetary contributions and did not include other forms of aid, such as scholarships granted to people from developing countries.
He would like to implement a better ODA reporting system within government departments as he felt there was under-reporting of assistance.
Dr Borg hopes to implement a more transparent way of financing projects targeted at reaching MDGs, and his ministry has launched a call for expression of interests for particular projects, which he hopes will have an increased budget.
He also plans to set up an advisory committee that will work with NGDOs to start implementing the Overseas Development Policy, launched last year, with reference to particular concrete projects.
"Notwithstanding our size and limited resources, Malta remains firmly committed to attaining the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. It intends to join other nations in efforts to strengthen global partnership to improve the effectiveness of development cooperation and to raise our sense of urgency in meeting these goals," he concluded.
Meanwhile, SKOP called on the government to commit towards real and genuine aid and transparency in its reporting, promote fair trade as a tool toward reaching the MDGs and commit itself towards setting up a national strategy on development education.
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