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Development Aid

Germany cuts development aid budget for 2013

The Development Ministry will operate with a slightly smaller budget in 2013, as part of a drive to reduce state borrowing. The cut puts Germany further adrift of its self-imposed target for development aid.

German Development Minister Dirk Niebel will have almost 6.3 billion euros (about $8 billion) at his disposal in 2013, 124 million euros less than previously planned and 87 million euros less than this year. The Free Democrat politician described the budget cut of just under 2 percent as "a bitter setback."

The reduction would be the first cut in the Development Ministry's budget since Chancellor Angela Merkel took office in 2005.

The changes were agreed in budget committee talks on Friday. Niebel criticized the decision, a part of Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble's attempts to cut German borrowing in 2013, saying that his department was contributing disproportionately to the savings.

While acknowledging that the Bundestag has the right to set ministerial budgets, Niebel said that with the decision, "parliament has taken a step away from the internationally-promised target, first set 43 years ago, to put 0.7 percent of German GDP towards development aid by 2015."

Germany currently donates just under 0.4 percent of the country's gross domestic product towards international development aid.

Opposition outcry

Niebel's rivals in the main opposition parties were also critical of the decision.

The Social Democrats warned that the move could damage Germany's international reputation, while Green party politicians Priska Hinz and Thilo Hoppe said the government "is breaking international promises." Hoppe, like Heike Hänsel from the Left party, said that extending austerity measures to the development aid budget was saving money at the expense of the world's poorest people.

The budget expert for Merkel's Christian Democrats, Norbert Barthle, said the impact of the cuts would be minimal as the money in question was originally earmarked for the European Development Fund - the EU's main international aid instrument - but was no longer needed. Niebel had requested, however, that the funds remained in his ministry to be put to other uses.

German-based childrens' charity World Vision said it was "dismayed" by the decision, saying that the government should not be cutting aid for the poorest in a year when it amassed record tax revenues.

msh/jm (AFP, dpa, epd)