Aid Cuts Signal Strategic Blackhole

02 Apr, 2019

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) – the peak-body for international aid and development NGOs – is alarmed by the Government’s decision to continue to decrease the Australian aid and development budget and the Australian Government’s foreign policy incoherence.

The Government has failed to lift the aid budget, and lets it slide before pledging to restore indexation in 2022-23. In 2019-20, the budget is 21 cents for every $100 of income, and drops to 19 cents in 2021-22.

CEO of ACFID, Marc Purcell, said:

“Effectively this is a cut because of the failure to grow the aid budget in-line with inflation. We aren’t holding our breath for the Government to restore indexation in 2022-23 after a trail of broken pledges.

“The Government’s Pacific ‘step-up’ has come from the existing aid envelope resulting in a ‘step-down’ in other parts of the world. This includes finding $500m for Pacific infrastructure from the existing budget.

“The Government has made cuts to aid programs in Asia, reducing spending to five countries, including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Cambodia. Alarmingly, the Government is halving assistance to Pakistan and Nepal, two of the poorest countries in Asia. The Government’s own white paper on foreign policy is undermined by these cuts.

“This is a cavalier approach to regional engagement. We are veering into a withdrawal from large parts of Asia without consideration of the human and strategic costs.

“Cutting one part of the budget to pay for another does not add up to a long-term plan for international development cooperation and building Australia’s relationships. It’s strategically short-sighted.

“Given the downward aid trajectory, Australia is at risk of defaulting on its international commitments. The Government is opening up a huge blackhole in how it will contribute to addressing major global challenges, like climate change.

“It is very worrying for the Government not to have made provisions for international commitments in the short-to-medium term. This will be very problematic for the next Government.”

ENDS

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Authorised by Marc Purcell, Deakin