6 Sep 2013

End to western hubris around aid in Pacific predicted

5:29 pm on 6 September 2013

An aid specialist says there are signs that a new realism is informing aid efforts by Western countries in the Pacific region.

Professor Stephen Howes, who is the director of Australia's Development Policy Centre, has predicted an end to what he calls western hubris around aid programmes as recipient countries assert themselves more about what kind of aid they want.

He says China's aid in the Pacific is focussed on so-called capital projects such as building roads and infrastructure, even though it typically leaves recurrent costs and long-term maintenance for these projects to others.

"What Australia and New Zealand can learn from China is that China does, I think, listen to what the recipient wants. It doesn't think that its aid is going to transform the countries. Often we fall into that mistake that we think we can fix their problems through aid. I think China's more realistic. But by the same token, I think China can certainly learn from Australia and New Zealand, and probably needs to shift its emphasis away from capital projects towards maintenance and service delivery."

Stephen Howes