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Danish NGOs slam aid cuts in budget proposal

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Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen. His sign reads: "Where will the money come from?". Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Scanpix
14:39 CEST+02:00
The ruling Venstre government released its 2016 budget proposal on Tuesday and a string of Danish NGOs have strongly condemned the “bloodbath” within development aid spending.
Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen presented the Danish government's budget proposal on Tuesday. The plan increases spending in the health sector while making cuts in the areas of green initiatives, childcare and development aid. 
 
Cuts in the latter category will amount to Denmark spending 2.3 billion kroner less on development aid at a time when the government has repeatedly said that it would rather help more people abroad than accept refugees into Denmark. 
 
The proposed cuts would bring development spending down to 0.7 percent of the nation's gross national income, matching the United Nation's minimum recommendations. Denmark previously spent 0.87 percent of its income on foreign aid. 
 
Leaders of Danish aid organizations expressed their disappointment in the government's direction. 
 
“Bloodbath in Danish development aid – reduced by one third in [the 2016 budget],” Danish Red Cross  General Secretary Anders Ladekarl wrote on Twitter:
 
“WHAT? [The budget] reduces efforts in surrounding countries from 2.3 billion in 2014 to 1.1 billion in 2016 - was it all just talk?” he later tweeted:
 
The government characterized its development spending as a refocusing of priorities and said it will actually be spending more, not less, on foreign aid. 
 
“In the future, we want to prioritise countries and regions from where people leave in search of a better future in Europe. We want to focus on combating the root causes of migration, and especially contribute to efforts in areas affected by conflict and displacement in the Middle East and Africa. This will also entail maintaining the historically high Danish contribution dedicated to humanitarian efforts and the world's refugees. In fact we will increase our humanitarian contribution with DKK 50 million in 2016”, Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen said in a ministry press release. 
 
Ladekarl however said the government' claim was pure “spin”.
 
“The efforts are not being increased by 50 million – compared with actual usage, the help will fall by 492 million between 2014 and 2016,” he tweeted. 
 
Jonas Keiding Lindholm, the head of Save the Children Denmark (Red Barnet) sided with Ladekarl and wrote on Twitter that cuts to his organization mean that “180,000 vulnerable children had their futures stolen today”. 
 
In a press release, Save the Children wrote that the 15 percent cut to its budget will mean it will be able to help far fewer children than it does today. 
 
“The government's proposal sends a completely wrong and unwise signal to the world around us. As one of the world's richest countries, we still can afford to make an extra effort for the world's most poorly-positioned children. And we should do that,” Lindholm said. 
 
In introducing the budget, Frederiksen said it was the result of a series of tough decisions. 
 
“If we want to prioritize new areas, we need to find the money elsewhere. That is not an easy point of departure,” he said. 
 
The finance minister also defended cuts to development aid by saying the money would be redirected to Denmark's own citizens. 

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“Denmark absolutely takes its share of responsibility but we can still free up 2.3 billion kroner to, for example, help senile and weak elders. That is, as I see it, the right prioritization,” he said. 
 
Other highlights of the government's draft Finance Act for 2016 include:
 
• An additional 2.4 billion kroner to the healthcare sector and increased focus on elderly patients
• Cuts to the benefits received by refugees and introducing new restrictions on family reunification cases and permanent residency
• Saving 340 million kroner by dropping a number of ‘green' initiatives
• Cutting 1.4 billion kroner from government-funded research projects
•  150 million kroner a year toward a growth package meant to increase jobs outside of the nation's largest cities
• 75 million kroner a year to initiatives meant to make it easier for farmers to operate in Denmark
• A scrapping of the previous government's plan to increase spending in the nation's daycare centres

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