New OECD data show rising New Zealand aid

Hi and welcome to an NZADDs update.

Late last week the OECD released preliminary data on what its Development Assistance Committee members spent on aid in 2021. I was sick with Covid, so tried to ignore it, but fortunately my Devpolicy colleagues have provided a thorough analysis of what’s happening to global aid flows. (The data aren’t quite global, as they exclude China and some other donors, who aren’t transparent enough to tell the OECD about their aid. However, most major donors are included.)

As you can see in the Devpolicy analysis, global aid flows rose notably in 2021, which is good news.

What about New Zealand?

What do the OECD data tell us about New Zealand’s aid spending? You can see New Zealand spending trends over time in the chart below. Our aid went up quite rapidly in 2021. According to the OECD this was because of contributions to global Covid efforts and also because our aid programme was hurrying money out the door in the final year of our current aid budget triennium.

(You can download my data and workings for this chart here.)

You can see how New Zealand’s aid generosity, measured by the standard aid/GNI metric, has tracked over time in the next chart.

(You can download this chart and source data here.)

It’s bouncing around, but in terms of aid quantity New Zealand has become a notably more generous donor in recent years.

How do we compare globally? Handily, my colleagues have updated the Devpolicy Aid Tracker too. The Aid Tracker is Australia focused, but its international comparisons page provides the data necessary to compare New Zealand with other OECD DAC donors. Here we are:

(My workings can be downloaded here.)

New Zealand does better than Australia, but is less generous than the median donor (Ireland). And most of the countries less generous than us either have a history of being mean-spirited (the USA, for example) or are poorer than us (Poland, for example.) New Zealand has some work to do if it wants to be a respectable global aid giver.

What about the future?
Could New Zealand do better? Might New Zealand do better in coming years? Quite possibly we will. We have large climate finance promises to meet, for a start, and they should see the aid budget continue to rise, as best I can tell. But to get a good sense of what’s coming we need to wait for the next New Zealand government budget, which – handily – is soon: 19 May.

The only trouble is that, unlike other donors, such as Australia, which provide a clear picture of planned aid spending when their budgets are released, it has become increasingly hard to work out New Zealand’s  recent and planned government aid spending from information released on budget night.

The aid programme does provide a quite useful table on its website. But it is unclear how often, or when, it’s updated. The table is limited to three year spending triennia too. New Zealand nominally budgets aid spending on three year terms, which is a good approach to planning. But, on the ground, spending patterns change more rapidly than that. Transparency requires annual reporting.

Sometime after the fact, the OECD data I’ve discussed provides information on past spending, but if Australia can provide clear information on spending for the current financial year and planned spending for next year, New Zealand can too.

Previously, with some searching, I’ve been able to divine the total aid budget at least on budget day from Treasury documents. But I’m unsure if it will be possible this year thanks to Covid donation complications.

If anyone who knows more could advise me what will be available, the advice would be much appreciated, and great from a transparency perspective.