Thursday, May 13, 2010

What comes first, the chicken or the egg?


What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

There is an interesting article in today's The National about Australia's aid to PNG.

The PNG Foreign Minister's is reported to have claimed that much of the Australian aid given to PNG was wasted on consultants and advisers rather than health and education.
In response, Australia's Foreign Minister has stated that Australia will conduct a review of those adviser's effectiveness with partner governments.
This review will be jointly undertaken by AusAID and partner governments.
"Australia was committed to providing 'most effective' and 'value for money' advisers", Mr Stephen Smith is reported to have said.

However before some heave a collective sigh of relief that something is finally being done to answer years of criticism and reported inaction, let's first examine the statements from both Foreign Ministers in more detail.
There is no denying that PNG's Foreign Minister has an excellent point.
Some overseas advisers and consultants are reported to have been paid fabulous amounts by AusAID.
Reports of so called 'boomerang aid' have been around for years and refer to the 'giaman' (false) process whereby Australian consultants are paid in tax free dollars by the Australian Aid program and therefore PNG does not accrue any benefit.

In the newspaper article, it is claimed that local PNG experts are not available and therefore, overseas consultants have to be recruited.
But why are local experts not available?
Could it be that they can't get past the recruitment process or haven't the managers of aid programs thought about training PNG people to actually be able to do the work involved?
Many educated PNG people must now find employment overseas as the political appointment system is reputedly severely affected by the 'wantok' (fellow language speaker) process or just plain nepotism and corruption.

The old idea that, "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys", has somehow been morphed into the notion that if you pay someone a lot of money you are bound to get good results.
In this case, the only results AusAID have reputedly achieved have been to clearly increase a few foreign bank accounts.

Over many years, PNG's governments are not entirely squeaky clean however, when it comes to funding health and education.
These programs are the direct responsibility of the PNG government and that responsibility can't just be shifted to Australia's overseas aid program, as the report intimates.
A recent enquiry into PNG government finances revealed horrendous discrepancies in how most government departments are managed or mismanaged as the case appears to be.

Lastly, it is reported that those being held responsible for the overseas aid programs (AusAID and partner governments), are to 'review' their own programs.
Well that's a relief.
For a moment one might thought that someone independent and other than those responsible for the problems were going to conduct the review.
We almost might have uncovered some problems areas that neither AusAID nor their 'partner governments' might want the taxpayer to know about.

That would be a recipe for change.


Aust to PNG: Aid review in order


THE Australian government is committed to reviewing effectiveness of its aid to Papua New Guinea to get "value for money" following its complaints that a lot of the money was wasted on consultants.

A post-budget statement released by Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith on Tuesday night gave details of its aid commitments to Indonesia, Africa and the Caribbean nations.

However, it made no mention of aid support to PNG except in reference to its continuing commitment in helping reducing deforestation and carbon emission.

Smith said Australia was committed to conduct a review of advisers' effectiveness with partner-governments.
While PNG is a partner and the PNG aid component was expected to be over K400 million, Smith did not make any indication of it.
PNG used to be the largest overseas aid recipient until recently when Indonesia had become the focus of Australia as its strategic development partner while PNG hummed the tune of aid reduction and self-dependency.
In the 2010-11 budget handed down by the federal government on Tuesday night, Smith said Australia aid commitment to Indonesia over the next four years will be A$323 million (K804 million).
In direct response to PNG Foreign Minister Sam Abal's recent outburst that much of Australian aid to PNG was "wasted" on consultants and advisers instead of the needy areas of health and education, Australia was committed to providing "most effective" and "value for money" advisors.

"In 2010-11, AusAID will undertake a review jointly with partner governments on the use of technical advisers in the aid programme.
"The review will seek to ensure each adviser is the most effective, value-for-money response to meeting agreed need and priorities," Smith said.
Reacting to Abal's criticism against the boomerang aid last month, Australia's parliamentary secretary for International Development Assistance Bob McMullan said Australian consultants and advisers brought to PNG crucial skills that were often not available locally.
"Australia and PNG jointly decide on the areas of focus of the Australian aid program.
"The PNG government frequently requests Australia to provide technical experts to advise PNG government departments, and approves these appointments.
"These advisers bring crucial skills that often do not exist locally," spokesman for McMullan told The National via email from Canberra.

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