Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 17:21 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 17:21 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Aid, growth and migration

9 May 2012 10:44

Giovana Arrarte writes:

Graeme Dobell's post, 'Finally, a Pacific Workers Scheme', is full of interesting comments and one comment in particular, 'Australia had to tackle the taboo that had endured for decades – labour mobility from the islands. This should be seen as an issue of community, of security, or economic policy and aid, not merely a migration issue', caused me to think on various issues that might be related to his view.

Below I will attempt to summarise and quote relevant statements from various presentations and posts that, when read in conjunction, appear to support the view that migration, economic growth, development, security and aid are subjects so interconnected that are best considered from a holistic perspective. 

Last year the Director General of the International Organisation for Migration, Ambassador William Lacy Swing, delivered a remarkable speech at the Lowy Institute. During his presentation he indicated, among many other important issues, that migration was closely related to development, referred to the wok of the 'Annual Forum on Migration and Development', stated 'migration is the oldest poverty reduction strategy known to mankind', noted the positive effects of remittances and pointed out that circular migration was a creative approach which was increasingly favoured.

On 14 February 2012, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Antonio Guterres, stated at his presentation at the Lowy Institute, 'I am also encouraged to see growing awareness in Australia of the need to support transitional programs in return areas and development actions targeting refugees'.

At his last lecture at the Lowy Institute, Dr Khalid Koser listed within his ten recommendations 'targeting development aid to link with asylum policies'. He indicated this was a long term goal that could address root causes.

Coincidentally, while preparing this post, I received notification of a press release from the Minister of Immigration dated 3 May 2012 stating that 'The Federal Government has allocated more than $7 million towards overseas assistance projects supporting displaced and vulnerable people overseas'.

Last month at the Lowy Institute 'Asia Economic Outlook 2012' lecture, Asian Development Bank representatives Dr Donghyun Park and Ms Emma Veve commented on the importance of implementing targeted and efficient fiscal policies such as spending more on education and health to help reduce inequality.

Recent posts on The Interpreter have initiated a debate in respect of the effectiveness of aid in eliminating poverty. Below I have copied segments of some of the arguments raised in the debate: 

Tim O'Connor: 'Aid, when used most effectively, challenges societal impediments (eg. of limited education and poor health) that trap individuals and families in the cycle of poverty. Giving people the tools to free themselves from this cycle by improving their skills and consequently their earning potential whilst reducing the burden of disease upon them and their carers are very significant "elevators" out of poverty.'

Dr Michael Carnahan: '...where does this leave the Australian aid program? The fundamental purpose of Australian aid is to help people overcome poverty. Even with strong economic growth, hundreds of millions of women, men and children in Asia remain in poverty. However, this strong growth and dynamism means that the way we work with partner government in the region is evolving. It needs to continue to evolve to reflect the changing dynamics in the region. This will ensure that we have the maximum impact on poverty reduction for each dollar that the Australian taxpayer contributes.'

Hugh White: 'I argued last year poverty is eliminated by economic growth, and aid does little or nothing to support that. Nor can it do much to change the distribution of wealth in a society. The best it can do – and what is does best – is alleviate the consequences of poverty for those who have not yet escaped it. If that's right, let's admit it and design the program accordingly. But the aid community seems reluctant to really debate this central question.'

In June 2010, I had the opportunity to attend the public forum held in Sydney, 'Impact of Aid on Development'. I recall noting on that day the enthusiasm of then Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Misa Telefoni Retzlaff when comments about the Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC) and circular mobility were raised.

Based on the various statements and comments mentioned above, I was asking myself whether targeted aid that assists in the reduction of poverty, promotes economic growth and is supported by migration policies that promote circular migration within the region (minimising the risks of talent drain) is a solution that could be utilised more frequently and to a larger extent.

Could extending the operations of APTC by increasing the types of courses offered, the number of scholarships available and the locations where it operates be one of those options? It seems to me that this initiative, conceived in 2006, is a good example of a holistic approach to aid, development, migration and economic growth.

Finally, as Ms Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, stated during her speech at the Lowy Institute in February 2010: 'I think is appreciated in this country, that the developed world cannot afford to wall itself off from the problems which beset its neighbours, they are global problems and our prosperity, stability and security is ultimately affected by what happens beyond our own borders. I see it as very much in the mutual interest of developed and developing countries that internationally agreed development goals are achieved.'