Australias foreign aid is up but not in the Pacific
Australia's foreign aid boosts, but not for the Pacific, as Millennium Development Goal's aim for aid again falls short.
Australia's new foreign aid budget has increased, but the portion allocated to the Pacific has remained the same, as calls are made for better data collection on Pacific Millennium Development Goal results.
In Tuesday night's budget announcement, Australia revealed increased spending on countries in East Asia, such as Indonesia.
Australia set itself a Millennium Development Goal of increasing foreign aid to 0.5% of its Gross National Income by 2015, but has again fallen short.
Alex Perrottet has more:
Australia irked non-government organisations and aid workers last year when it moved $375 million from its foreign aid budget in order to cover expenses looking after asylum seekers onshore. But it says it has now capped that amount, and has pledged a $513 million boost to its 2013 foreign aid budget. Australia is still falling short of its goal of getting foreign aid to 0.5% of its gross national Income - a goal it was meant to achieve by 2015, but has since put off to 2016 and now, to 2017. The Director of the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University, Stephen Howes, says the overall foreign aid increase is good news during an economic downturn.
HOWES: In fact, we think this year we might be the sixth largest aid donor in the world. So I think Australia is doing pretty well. We are certainly doing much better than we used to, internationally.
Stephen Howes says the 0.5% goal in dollar terms means another three or four billion dollars on top of its current commitment, which is unreaslistic and a lesson for the government's future pledges. The Communications Director of the Pacific Institute of Public Policy, Ben Bohane, agrees and says it's no surprise the Australian government has again delayed the goal.
BOHANE: It has put if off, which does give you pause for thought about whether it will be implemented particularly if a liberal government comes in as is expected. So it has been put off to the never-never, but the aspiration is there and I guess if you're a budget treasurer it's the probably one of the easiest thing and the first thing you'll look to peel back if you are going to have cost savings in other areas.
A researcher from New Zealand's Maxim Institute Dr Jane Silloway Smith says more data is required in order to judge the effectiveness of aid spending in the Pacific.
SILLOWAY SMITH: We don't have good data on social structures and social situations, on political systems as we do in so many other parts of the world, in Asia and Africa and Latin America for instance. So I think that's the major issue for aid in the Pacific is not knowing what's going on. And so then when you give money to these aid programmes, we are so unsure of where we started from that how can we know where we're going to.
Ben Bohane says Australia is mindful of other large donors playing their part in the region and may not be the region's biggest donor for long. He says the key challenge moving forward is for Australia and New Zealand to coordinate with China and harmonise aid programmes for the region.
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