Saturday 24 Oct 2020 | 23:05 | SYDNEY
Saturday 24 Oct 2020 | 23:05 | SYDNEY

Australia wavering on aid commitments?


Danielle Cave


This post is part of the Australian aid to Africa debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

7 May 2010 12:22

This post is part of the Australian aid to Africa debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

Australia’s delivery of aid, and in particular, the motivation behind Australia’s increasing aid to Africa has received a bit of attention on The Interpreter this past fortnight. Debating Australia’s increasing aid funding to Africa is a difficult one as the opportunity cost of giving increasing amounts of aid there means less is going towards our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific.

The needs of Africa are enormous and are being served by an almost equally enormous swarm of country donors, multilateral donors, NGOs, the private sector and philanthropists (aka Bill Gates and Bono).

There is always room for more assistance but I am not confident AusAID could be the nimble and responsive player Joel Negin suggests.  Last year’s Australian National Audit Office report indicated otherwise.

A UN Security Council bid certainly muddies the waters and confuses the potential positive impact with the ethical motivations behind its aid.

I am less concerned with where the aid is going and more concerned with how much we actually give after seeing the latest figures released by the OECD that show Australia is not as generous as I had thought. It falls well below the average country effort of 0.48% of gross national income (GNI) and is less than half of the UN’s 0.7% target — coming in at 0.29% by the OECD’s calculations or 0.34% by the Australian Government’s reporting measures.

Australia’s aid budget for 2009-10 is $3.8 billion which seems a significant figure. As a comparison however, the Australia Defence Force is spending more than that to acquire just half a dozen Wedgetail military aircraft. It really does seem like Australia gives the world’s poor little more than our spare change.

The Australian Government has made a commitment to increase its official development assistance to GNI ratio to 0.5 per cent by 2015?16. The last budget increase following this announcement was constrained by the demands of the global financial crisis — as to be fair, were aid budgets in many OECD countries. However, bucking this trend are France, the UK and the US that have all seen large increases in their aid budgets this past year and no surprise to see Finland and Luxembourg paving the way as well.

Next week’s aid budget increase will need to be higher if the government wants to demonstrate it is serious about upscaling in a sustainable fashion, rather than backloading its commitment after the election. Let’s hope the government doesn’t reach for excuses and instead proves its commitment to doing all it can to assist people living in developing countries, who are in a less fortunate position than ourselves.  

Photo by Flickr user riacale, used under a Creative Commons license.