Wednesday, May 09, 2012

PNG affected as Australian foreign aid funding boost delayed till 2016


Papua New Guinea will be among Australian aid recipients affected as foreign aid will be stripped of almost $3 billion with Labor breaking its pledge to spend more on overseas development.
Indonesia ranks as Australia's largest aid recipient at $578 million, with PNG, engulfed by political turmoil over recent months ahead of scheduled national elections, ranking second at $492 million.
The Australian government said despite meeting a 0.5% target for aid a year later, Australia was on track to have doubled overall spending on foreign development between 2007 and 2015.
It said Australian aid had supported an additional 120,000 school enrolments in the Pacific, across PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
But it said serious challenges remained with 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty in the region and around the world — with another 1.1 billion, many in Asia, who live just above the poverty line.
''We also provide aid because Australians find it unacceptable that people across the globe still live without sufficient income to lead a decent life, or to buy basic medicines or send their children to school.''
The government had promised to devote 0.5 per cent of Australia's gross national income to foreign aid by 2015 — raising total spending to potentially as much as $8 billion.
But that increase will now be delayed another year to 2016, despite Labor renewing the 2015 pledge at its national conference in December.
Deferring the target will save the government $447 million this financial year, with savings to almost double annually over the next three years to a total of $2.9 billion.
Fears of aid cuts in the run up to the budget had generated a vocal campaign by charity groups, including stark warnings children will die should Australia fail to meet its target.
But Treasurer Wayne Swan denied the government was balancing its books on the back of the world's poor and insisted Australia could be proud of what it would achieve in overseas development.
He rejected suggestions the cut marked a vote of no-confidence in the ability of Australia's overseas aid agency AusAID to deliver the extra money after heavy criticism in recent times over payments to consultants and wasteful spending.
He said reductions were being felt right across the public purse.
Australia will also lose 44 diplomats from the Foreign Affairs department but, as revealed by The Age in February, gain a new embassy in Senegal.
Foreign Affairs will be funded for a new consulate in Chengdu, China - announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in March - and around $72 million will be spent on private contractors to secure the Australian embassy in Iraq.
The government is yet to reveal which Australian city will host G20 leaders in 2014, but has devoted $370 million to the running costs and security for the summit.
In spite of a slower rate of spending, AusAID will continue to grow by $400 million to $5.2 billion overall, with 44 additional staff.
Private charities will get a $194 million slice of the budget, while most official aid continues to be focused on Asia and the Pacific, with around 30 per cent of aid money handed to international funds such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
Some $154 million will be devoted to expanding Australia's ties with six United Nations agencies, including UN Women and the World Health Organisation, but no additional money has been allocated to the campaign to win a temporary seat on the UN Security Council ahead of a vote in October.
Burma stands to be rewarded for its political reforms in the past year with $11 million in extra aid for maternal health and education programs, while Fiji will also benefit from an additional $61 million.

1 comment:

  1. John Pasquarelli7:59 AM

    PNG has great untapped wealth and with good people running the show PNG should be giving out aid NOT receiving it!