ROME - Irish singer and anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof grilled Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in an interview published yesterday, telling him Rome's failed pledges on aid put his credibility in doubt as he chairs a G8 summit this week.
"How can you lead the G8? Where is your credibility?" Geldof asked Berlusconi in the interview, printed in La Stampa newspaper ahead of the July 8-10 Group of Eight summit in L'Aquila.
"Here we have the signature of a country and the honour of a man," Geldof told Berlusconi, showing him the written commitment to increase aid to Africa signed by him and his G8 colleagues at a 2005 summit in Scotland, La Stampa said.
Geldof said Italy had cut aid instead by about R4,42billion.
"I am sorry, we made a mistake," Berlusconi responded, saying Italy's public debt and the global economic crisis had forced it to cut spending before it could honour its commitment.
"We are sorry we also reduced aid to Africa ... Our economy minister has made a commitment to readjust in line with our undertakings within three years."
Geldof's ONE campaign group said last month Italy was trailing other G8 nations in making good on their promise to double aid to Africa by 2010.
It said Rome had delivered only 3percent of the aid increase promised by Berlusconi four years ago, and that Italy's shortfall risked undermining the performance of the whole G8.
A government official told Geldof at the interview Italy would raise aid spending to 0,33percent of GDP by 2010 and to 0,51percent in 2015.
"To achieve this plan you would have to do an unbelievable job. We don't need plans, we need actions," Geldof retorted.
Berlusconi said Italy was ready to back US President Barack Obama's plan to double US funding for development aid to R7,9billion by 2010. - Reuters