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Presidential candidates are all for change and development, but what are the conditions?

Translated Saturday 22 April 2017, by Abbie Williams

The five main presidential candidates in the upcoming election want to double public aid from France to poorer countries. However, their policies differ and certain candidates want to impose conditions.

A rather unfamiliar consensus was reached on the 6th April - as the five representatives of the main candidates for the 2017 presidential election showed a great sense of unanimity, when brought together at the Sciences Po in Paris to discuss the challenges and priorities of France in the field of development cooperation. Senator Jean Bizet, Benoît Hamon’s spokesperson Yannick Jadot, Le Pen advisor Bertrand Dutheil de la Rochère, senior official Bernard Féraud (La France Insoumise)and Jean-Michel Severino representative for Macron (En Marche!) all praised the benefits of official development assistance (ODA) and criticised its low standards. “This is without doubt the first time in an election that the question of development appears in all of the candidates’ political campaigns,” noted Tancred Voituriez of Iddri, an independent research institute co-organizer of the public meeting. The migratory crisis that Europe has been experiencing in recent years is certainly not unrelated to this realisation.

Development aid: a fundamental policy

"Development aid is not a gadget, it is a fundamental policy that contributes to making the world more fair," explains Jean-Michel Severino (En marche!), formally director general of the French Development Agency (AFD) from 2001 to 2010. "By 2050, Africa will have 450 million more people in the labour market. This is a major and unprecedented challenge,” added Severino. "We have a debt to the countries we have pillaged for four centuries. ODA is a form of rebalancing," says Yannick Jadot. “It is important that we target agriculture and vocational training so that people can work from home. This is why we want France to finally commit to spending 0.7% of its GDP on ODA,” explains Bertrand Dutheil of La Rochère.

"It is finally necessary to observe the commitment of 0.7% and to concentrate 50% of this aid to the least developed countries (LDCs, 48 States) compared to the 25% currently. Also this aid should not be dependent on the condition of a country halting the flow of migration,” responded Bernard Féraud (France Insoumise). “And the share of donations must be higher than that of loans," concludes Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s representative. Today, more than 90% of France’s ODA is made up of loans to solvent countries.

The share of development aid in GDP was 0.37% in 2015

In a report issued in October 2016, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council of France advocated reaching 0.7% by 2022, considering that the ratio was 0.37% in 2015. But what is the position of the candidates? Jean-Michel Severino speaks of a “flexibility in space and time", thus seven to eight years. But in his campaign, Emmanuel Macron suggests "a gradual increase trajectory between 2017 and 2030, conditional on our economic performance." It remains vague on the possible conditions linked to the aid from France. "I bet you all a bottle of champagne that the level of the ODA in France will not have increased by 2022. This equates to € 25 billion over five years. No president will do it", admits the former head of the AFD. “Francis Fillon did neither confirm nor deny date predictions when it came to this moment of honesty,” explained Jean Bizet. The senator LR advocates greater use of business to compensate for the lack of public funding. Marine Le Pen and Benoît Hamon decided to put off this goal to the end of their five-year term in 2022. "We believe that the French will be in favour because we will target Francophone countries and demand that they buy aid produced by French companies," states the elected FN. “This financial target is not impossible to achieve,” said Yannick Jadot, who believes in new forms of financing such as a tax on financial transactions. As for Bernard Féraud of FI, he maintains that the 0.7% will be reached in 2020.

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