TOO LITTLE TOO LATE! – Charities condemn Bush aid offer

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Charities Oxfam, Action Aid and Christian Aid said yesterday that Bush’s pledge to double US aid to Africa was too little, too late.

Action Aid senior policy officer Patrick Watt said Bush’s increase from $4billion to $8billion over five years was the equivalent to two days of US spending on arms.

Watt said it was ‘a very modest step forward being spun as a colossal leap’.

He added: ‘Africa’s 4.7 million people in need of AIDS drugs and 40 million children out of school deserve more than this.

‘They cannot afford to wait until 2010.’

An Oxfam spokesman said: ‘This does not reflect the emergency of the situation and would come too late for 55 million children who would die from poverty during this period.

‘This money is needed now, not in 2010 as is currently being discussed.’

Jonathan Glennie, a policy analyst from Christian Aid, said: ‘If this is President Bush’s only response to the crisis in Africa, we think he cannot be serious about alleviating poverty.

‘The sum of £370m is a drop in the ocean compared to what Africa really needs – it requires an extra £15bn to £20bn per year in aid.’

Bush also made it clear that aid would be conditional, saying the ‘primary focus’ would be on ‘reforming countries’.

A spokesman for umbrella protest group ‘G8 Alternatives’ said that translated into privatisation which has been responsible for much of Africa’s poverty.

Meanwhile, G8 Alternatives yesterday claimed a ‘victory’ after reaching a deal to march within 500 metres of the Gleneagles Hotel, the venue of the G8 summit next week.

G8 protesters and Perth and Kinross Council officials had been at loggerheads over plans to walk past the Gleneagles Hotel on 6 July.

The council had first confined the protest to nearby Auchterarder. Marchers will now assemble on the western side of Auchterarder and proceed up to a security fence, which is close to the hotel.

G8 Alternatives organiser Joshua Brown said: ‘This is absolutely a victory, not just for the demonstration but to preserve the right to protest in Scotland.

‘We’ve been engaged in a massive political battle for months over the march at Gleneagles and we’ve built a movement here in Scotland standing up to the corrupt policies of the G8 that produce war, poverty and exploitation.

‘It shows we are winning.’

He added: ‘The people who marched against the war in Iraq are the people who will be joining our march. These people are not coming here to cause trouble.’

Licensing Committee Convener, Councillor Alan Grant, claimed: ‘The council has always recognised and supported the right to peaceful protest.’

He added: ‘Minimising disruption to the local community and ensuring public safety are our top priorities.’