New development minister says aid to China should be cut completely | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 30.10.2009
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New development minister says aid to China should be cut completely

Germany's new development minister, Dirk Niebel, has said China is no longer in need of German aid, saying other countries are much more in need. Opposition and non-government circles have reacted with alarm.

A shopping streetpacked with people, shop signs and billboards in Shanghai

Niebel says aid should go to more improverished countries

Niebel told a German newspaper that economic powers like China and India, commonly referred to as "developing nations," no longer met the criteria of that distinction.

"Battling poverty is more important than ever. That means we have to concentrate our resources effectively in the most needy areas. Economic giants like China and India don't belong to these," he told the mass-circulation daily Bild Zeitung.

Niebel, meanwhile, did not provide any details on when the 70 million euros ($103 million ) of annual aid to China would be discontinued.

Change in policy

The push to discontinue the economic assistance reflects a change in the Germany's general development aid policy.

Niebel's party, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) went into coalition talks with Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) with the explicit wish of merging the development ministry with the foreign ministry.

The combination of the two ministries, the party said, would establish a German foreign policy with "one voice."

Meanwhile, the opposition has reacted with alarm to the FDP being at the head of the development ministry. Social Democrat spokesman Sascha Rabbe called Niebel's appointment as development minister a "bad joke."

"It's nothing short of ridiculous that the people who were trying to dissolve the development ministry have now put one of their own at the head of it. It looks now like Niebel will turn the development ministry into a liquidation ministry," he said.

Dirk Niebel

Many are perplexed at the naming of Niebel as development minister

Broken promises?

Criticism also come from development groups. Claudia Warning, head of the German federation of non-governmental organizations active in development cooperation, VENRO, has said the new government's international policy disregards commitments Germany has already made regarding development aid.

"The government is simply not recognizing all international agreements and time frameworks it has ratified in the past on increasing its official development aid," IPS news agency quoted her as saying.

Warning said the new government's program put too much emphasis on "promoting German economic interests abroad." The ministry's task was to "contribute to the international fight against poverty, and not the promotion of German business interests," she said.

Germany's previous government had pledged to raise its official development aid to over 0.5 percent of GDP by 2010 and 0.7 percent by 2015.

The FDP, meanwhile, has rejected claims that the new government will decrease its contributions to developing nations. It says, on the contrary, that it is looking for ways to step up the fight against global poverty.

Editor: Nancy Isenson

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