Pacific NGOs react to Australia's aid adjustments
Non Government Organisations in the Pacific are cautiously optimistic about a heightened focus on the region by the Australian government's revamped aid programme.
There is cautious optimism among non government organisations in the Pacific over Australia's revamped aid programme.
Last week Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced more of the 5 billion US dollar annual budget will be directed closer to home and private sector involvement will be a feature.
Jenny Meyer spoke to some of the agencies operating in the region to gauge their reaction.
Oxfam in Papua New Guinea says it welcomes the increase in aid funding to the country announced by the Australian government as part of what Canberra calls a paradigm shift. Associate country director, Phillippe Allen, says PNG will receive around 540 million US dollars this financial year which starts at the beginning of July, and is an increase of about 20 million US dollars from last year. He says the aid is largely focussed on private sector involvement, governance, health and education, and women's economic development. But he says he hopes there won't be too much financial focus on eye catching infrastructure.
PHILLIPPE ALLEN: There's no point having a brand new road if women can't walk safely down it. There's no point refurbishing a market place if women can't go to the market place and sell their goods in safety in the evenings. There's a lot of other issues that one has to address if you are to release the potential that infrastructure investment can give you.
Phillippe Allen says he believes Canberra has the balance right with the adjustments to its aid policy. World Vision in Solomon Islands says it welcomes Australia's additional focus in the Pacific region as often funding has not been adequate to meet basic needs such as water and sanitation. Andrew Catford says while the move towards more involvement of private enterprise to promote economic development has potential, there is really only a very small private sector in Solomon Islands and the practical realities are difficult.
ANDREW CATFORD: In a place like Solomon Islands where you have such a small private sector and it's a largely subsistance based economy based on primary industry it's sort of delivered through small single families or individuals, it is a little bit harder to sort of create those type of private sector partnerships.
Andrew Catford says making business involvement work well and be effective in future development will take a lot of open minded thinking and innovation. Tonga's Civil Society Forum says it's concerned a focus on private sector involvement may lead to further suffering for vulnerable people. Chairman Drew Havea says small island states in the Pacific do not have strong private sectors and he's concerned if there is a reliance on the trickle down effect. He says there needs to be a balanced appoach as he's worried the changes may slow development and more people could become vulnerable in the mean time.
DREW HAVEA: We have a responsibility to work with our marginalised populations; the poor, people with disabilities, old aged. Some of the programmes, the social programmes that try to assist the vulnerable populations and I think some of those programmes are going to suffer.
Drew Havea says he would welcome the chance to sit down with Australia and discuss aid issues as Tonga tries to move on from it's current economic reliance on donor help.
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