Development Aid

When the Numbers Mean Nothing

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany spent more on official development assistance, or ODA, in 2016, by including domestic spending on refugees inside the country. Critics say that while the numbers look good, more could be done to ensure that aid goals are being met.

  • Facts


    • In 2016, Germany increased its ODA to developing countries by 36 percent to €22 billion, or $23 billion.
    • The main reason for the significant increase is that Germany has begun classifying its domestic spending on refugees as ODA. Until 2014, Germany did not include this expenditure in calculations. Other European Union countries, such as Sweden and Britain, have long done this.
    • In 2016, total ODA from developed countries reached a new peak of $142.6 billion, an increase of 8.9 percent compared to 2015.
  • Audio


  • Pdf
Man braiding a basket
In Ghana: All that aid money has brought little in the way of positive change in the global fight against poverty. Source: Getty

It took 44 years – but during the past year Germany finally managed to make the quota set by the United Nations in 1972, spending 0.7 percent of economic output on development aid. Yes, the goal was only reached thanks to all the spending on refugees inside Germany; without them, the quota would have been stuck at 0.52 percent.

But there is nothing reprehensible about including these costs in the calculation, despite claims to the contrary from some aid workers. It is justifiable. It corresponds to criteria governing the quota for official development assistance, or ODA, which other industrial nations have adhered to for years.


Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.