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Aid Plan for Africa Called Progress, If Only Limited

I’m Barbara Klein with the VOA Special English Development Report.

There is praise mixed with criticism for the Africa aid plan announced by leaders from the Group of Eight. The announcement came July eighth at the end of their meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland. The eight nations are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The G-Eight leaders agreed to increase their yearly development aid to fifty thousand million dollars within five years. The current level is twenty-five thousand million. The leaders also agreed to cancel forty thousand million dollars in debt owed by eighteen nations, mostly in Africa.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is the G-Eight president this year. As he announced the plan, he noted, "We speak today in the shadow of terrorism." Bombs exploded on three London trains and a bus on July seventh, opening day of the meeting.

Mister Blair described the aid measures as a strong first step. “It isn’t the end of poverty in Africa,” he said. “But, it is the hope that it can be ended.”

Many development experts, though, say the aid falls short. The group Action Aid estimates that less than half of the additional money promised to Africa is truly new. It says most is simply a reorganization of existing aid budgets. Action Aid also says more than forty other poor nations should have debts cancelled, too.

At the same time, experts say many countries lack measures to make sure aid money is not stolen. And money can come too quickly. Robert Bunyi is Africa economist for Standard Bank. He says large amounts of aid can lead to stronger currency values which make countries less appealing to foreign investors. Still, he says, "Any increase in aid is going to be good for Africa."

As head of the G-Eight, Tony Blair has promised to make the fight against poverty one of his main concerns. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals aim to cut world poverty in half by two thousand fifteen. The United Nations wants rich countries to agree to spend seven-tenths of one percent of their national earnings on aid. The European Union has promised to reach that level by two thousand fifteen. But other nations such as the United States, Canada and Japan have not.

Prime Minister Blair noted the limits of the measures agreed to in Scotland. “It isn’t all everyone wanted,” he said. “But it is progress.”

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. Our reports are on the Web at I’m Barbara Klein.