Guernsey Press

£1m. of unspent overseas aid returned to help local coronavirus response

AT LEAST £1m. of unspent money set aside for overseas aid will be returned to general revenue to support the States' coronavirus response.

President of the Overseas Aid & Development Commission Deputy Emily McSwiggan. (27885470)

The Overseas Aid and Development Commission (OA&DC) has agreed to provide additional support to the States of Guernsey's coronavirus response by suspending all large grants and small grants programmes for 2021 projects.

It is discussing with charities that it supports to see how much of their planned 2020 overseas work is affected by coronavirus restrictions in place in other countries.

The OA&DC anticipates this will mean at least £1m. of the 2020 budget will be unspent and can be returned to general revenue to support the States' coronavirus response.

Emergency Relief funding, which has a budget of £350,000 this year, will continue as normal.

President of the OA&DC Deputy Emilie McSwiggan said the committee has, with regret, taken the decision to suspend its normal funding rounds for the time being.

She recognised that the effect of the coronavirus around the world means that it will not be possible, for at least the next few months, to safely deliver many of the programmes the committee usually supports.

'Locally, the crisis has put enormous pressure on the public sector and we've had to consider scaling back business as usual so we can free people up to support the pandemic response.'

She emphasised that this should not change the States' commitment to providing aid and support for international development in the long term.

'The coronavirus has shown just how connected a world we are, and helping other countries to recover will also benefit our own Bailiwick.

'But while it's not possible to do our usual work safely and effectively, we are glad to be able to support the local effort to address the crisis.'

In a letter to Policy & Resources president Deputy Gavin St Pier, she said in light of the exceptional financial commitment which the States has had to make in the last few days, the commission believes the responsible thing to do is to offer to return this unspent money to the Treasury at once, to support the island's coronavirus response.

In reply, Deputy St Pier thanked Deputy McSwiggan and the commission for the 'proactive and responsible approach'.

'States expenditure is increasing rapidly in a number of areas as a result of responding to the impact and implications of coronavirus.

'As you are no doubt aware, the volume and value of income support payments to members of our community have increased considerably recently and budget returned from the commission will offset part of the resulting unbudgeted expenditure pressure.'