Mark Dodd | August 03, 2009
AUSTRALIA'S aid tsar has called for new approach to the Pacific, revealing conditions in East Timor and Papua New Guinea are worsening despite $500 million in assistance.
Pacific states, including East Timor, are “seriously off track” to achieve ambitious Millenium Development Goals by 2015, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance Bob McMullan said today.
The warning follows the release of a second annual report, Tracking Development and Governance in the Pacific, compiled by the Government's official aid arm, AusAID.
The report recommends a new approach to Pacific aid to ensure development assistance is more efficiently targeted.
“In 2000, world leaders agreed on 2015 as the timeframe for achieving the MDGs. The world is past the half-way mark,” the report says.
“However, achieving all MDGs across the Pacific region by the deadline is unlikely.”
It found at least 2.7 million people in the region are living in poverty, about 400,000 children are not enrolled in primary school and 64 out of every 1000 children die before the age of five years.
Adding to the tale of woe, at least 80,000 adults have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and the infection rate is growing by more than 40 per cent a year.
Two of the worst affected countries are East Timor and Papua New Guinea which, despite receiving $117 million and $414 million in aid respectively, are experiencing worsening poverty.
On a visit to Australia last month East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta complained that a decade of UN presence in his country had delivered little in terms of improved standards of living.
“The Pacific region is seriously off track to achieve the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, “ Mr McMullan said.
“The people of the Pacific, expect us all, donors and Pacific Island governments alike, to do much better.”
Launching the report at the Lowy Institute, he said, governments needed better plans, budget frameworks and financial systems that prioritise resources to MDGs.
The Pacific's problems have been exacerbated by the global recession, which has resulted in lower economic growth across the region combined with population increases, the report says.
Relative to the size of their economies and populations, Pacific countries receive some of the largest official development aid (ODA) amounts in the world.