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Analysis of 2015-16 Development Spending: Three Findings

by Aniket Bhushan and Rachael Calleja 

Published: April 4, 2017

This analysis is based on the GAC Statistical Report on International Assistance for the fiscal 2015-16, which was released on March 31, 2017.

What does the data show?

  • The overall trend is flat, as expected. There were no major announced increases that would have been expected to impact aggregate levels over the given period.
  • Official development assistance (ODA) reportable to the OECD-DAC for the period will be lower than the previous.
  • The only area of note, again as expected, is the jump in refugee costs reported as ODA.

These are elaborated below. Relevant tables comparing 2015-16 with 2014-15 are provided thereafter.

A fuller update of this data will be available soon through our Foreign Aid data portal page.

Overall trend and picture: Flat as expected

Total reported international assistance for 2015-16 is CAD$5429.89 million, compared to CAD$5841.95 million in 2014-15.

Leaving aside one-time blips that inflated 2014-15 data and which we have discussed extensively, the overall trend is flat, as expected, as there were no major announced increases that would be expected to affect this period.

The total amount of assistance funded by the IAE in 2014-15 was CAD$5292.06 million. However, this included one-time exceptional payments to World Bank IDA, and loans to Ukraine. Net of this the total funded out of the IAE would have been approx. CAD$4492 million in 2014-15. The amount funded out of the IAE in 2015-16 is CAD$4637.86 million – i.e. the trend is flat.

Core development projects and programs are funded out of the IAE and through GAC. These indicate a slight increase: from CAD$3720.62 in 2014-15 to CAD$3915.44.

ODA reportable to OECD-DAC will be down

The IAE is Canada’s budgetary tool for international development. It overlaps significantly with the OECD-DAC definition of “ODA” but is not exact.

For 2014-15, which accounts for OECD-DAC 2015 figures, the total reportable ODA from Canada was CAD$5712.89 million. The figure for 2015-16 is slightly lower, at CAD$5280.98 million.

Again, the 2014-15 figure included one-time items, so it is not a surprise to see this decline. However, there are other factors to keep in mind. The OECD data is on a calendar year basis, while the above Canadian figures are on a fiscal year basis. The above are in CAD$ while the OECD are normalized to US$. Leaving aside the change in denominator (growth in Canada has been tepid), this should imply the ODA/GNI ratio, which was last reported at 0.28, will be flat or lower, 2015 compared to 2016. Again, this is hardly a surprise as the impact of one-time items already inflated this ratio in 2015.

Big jump in refugee resettlement costs reported as ODA (as expected)

A key finding from comparisons is the impact of refugee resettlement on Canada’s ODA figures. Refugee resettlement costs (only 1st year) are reportable as ODA according to DAC rules. As we have shown, this was already starting to have a major impact in the case of many donors, as well as overall aid figures.

But, as we predicted, the impact in Canada’s figures would take more time because the 1st year of resettled Syrian refugees is only now showing up in Canadian data.

We see this starkly when comparing 2015-16 with 2014-15.

  • Total reported refugee costs (both federal and provincial) in 2014-15 were: CAD$ 271.05 million. About 4.6% of total assistance.
  • Total reported refugee costs in 2015-16 were: CAD$ 517.09 million. About 9.5%.

Even accounting for the change in denominator (again, due to exceptional items in the previous year), this still represents a near doubling (roughly 91% increase).

Minus the effect of this increase in refugee costs that are reportable as ODA, Canada’s forthcoming ODA figures for 2016 (soon to be released by the OECD-DAC) would be even lower.

Total international assistance in 2015-16


Total international assistance in 2014-15


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