Aid hit record in 2016, driven by migrant flows: OECD

Children play in the courtyard of an abandoned school used to host Syrian and Afghan refugees in Athens on July 1, 2016

Wealthy countries boosted their aid spending in 2016, investing a record $143 billion (135 billion euros) in overseas development as migrants continued to pour into Europe, the OECD said Tuesday. The 8.9 percent hike in aid spending was partly driven by a 27.5 percent increase in spending on refugees, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said. The United States remained the world's biggest donor overall, spending $33.6 billion on overseas assistance, ahead of Germany with $24.7 billion and Britain with $18 billion. But the US leadership position could be short-lived. In a draft budget last month President Donald Trump proposed steep reductions in foreign aid as part of his "America first" approach. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has, by contrast, thrown her country's doors open to migrants fleeing war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In 2016, Germany increased its aid spending by 36 percent as it attempted to absorb the more than one million migrants who have streamed into the country since 2015. Germany's spending propelled it into the small club of countries that have met a UN target to spend at least 0.7 percent of gross national income on development aid. The other members of the club are Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Luxembourg. While overall aid spending was up, bilateral aid to the world's poorest countries was down 3.9 percent over 2015. "While governments should be commended for sustaining investment in development during these difficult times, it is unacceptable that – once again – aid to the poorest countries is in decline," the secretary general of the Paris-based OECD, Angel Gurria, said in a statement.