Budget: Foreign Aid Deferral Hits Hard
9 May 2012 at 10:44 am
Australia’s overseas aid agencies says the deferral of the foreign aid funding would cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
The Gillard Government has moved to delay its commitment to boost aid spending to 0.5% of gross national income, a move that will mean $2.9 billion less for the world’s poorest over four years.
Aid agency, Oxfam, says the Government’s aid cut holds back global fight against poverty.
Oxfam says the Federal Budget reveals that the government has broken its promise to increase aid to 0.5 per cent of national income by 2015. Next year, aid spending will remain at 0.35 per cent of Australia’s national income, well below the 0.38 per cent forecast in last year’s budget papers.
Oxfam Australia’s executive director Andrew Hewett said it was deeply disappointing to see the Treasurer had broken the Government’s promise to commit 0.5 per cent of national income by 2015.
“Australia’s aid program saves lives and it could save more lives, more quickly, without these cuts,” he said. “This delay in aid spending means fewer people will have access to clean water, sanitation, education and healthcare,” he said.
Hewett said with one in seven people around the world still going hungry every day, the world could not afford to wait for action.
“This delay undermines the improvements in the quality of the aid program, including efforts to improve aid effectiveness, food security and agricultural support to developing countries, and helping communities to be better prepared to respond to humanitarian disasters,” Hewett said.
"CARE Australia is disappointed that the Government has reduced its commitment to foreign aid in this budget," said chief executive Dr Julia Newton-Howes.
"Australia's bipartisan commitment to growing the aid program is an important demonstration of Australia's international leadership and values.
"New research released by CARE Australia this week found that almost 60 per cent of Australians believe that giving aid to people living in extreme poverty should not be a negotiable budget item. Australians came out strongly before the budget to support people living in poverty, and the Government has ignored them."
World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello said: "but for the last minute intervention of Foreign Minister Bob Carr the aid budget would have been far worse".
“Yet the reality is if the government had kept its promise to boost aid to 0.5 of GNI by 2015 there would have been over $300 million more in aid in this budget alone,” Costello said.
“And there will be $2.9 billion less for aid by 2015/16 as a result of this delay. It is disappointing because the commitment on aid was bipartisan and strongly supported in the Australian community.”
Costello said there were welcome initiatives in the Budget including 70 per cent of aid being directed to the Asia Pacific region with new programs in PNG, the Pacific and Burma.
The Budget also included significant increases in funding for humanitarian emergencies, boosted funding for UN agencies (including the World Food Program and UN Women) and aid and development agencies.
Costello said the new Comprehensive Aid Policy Framework would also provide greater certainty in multi-year funding in aid as well as giving Australians a better idea of how the money is spent.
“It is important to acknowledge that the aid budget did increase, while this increase is less than promised, this money will make a difference in the lives of the world’s poorest,” he said.
Australia currently sits 13th out of 23 OECD countries in terms of the generosity of its aid giving.
Save the Children Australia has criticised the Federal Government for turning its back on the world’s most vulnerable children.
Save the Children’s Policy Adviser Nicole Cardinal said delaying the increase in the overseas aid budget to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income beyond 2015 will cost lives.
“This is a dark day for the children that we could have supported.”
"The decision to delay aid in favour of a budget surplus will have dire consequences for many children in our neighbouring countries," Cardinal said.
“Every aid dollar delayed can mean the difference between a healthy child and a malnourished one, an educated child and an illiterate one, and a child with a promising future and a child trapped in poverty.”
Cardinal said the government has ignored the millions of Australians who support increased aid to some of the poorest countries in the world.
Australians know that effective aid for children is both an investment in individual children, as well as an investment in Australia’s future economic prosperity in the region.
Given that the 21st century is predicted to be the Asian century, the government is failing to demonstrate the kind of leadership necessary to become a leading player in the region.
Read all our coverage of the 2012 Budget here.
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