Australia sinks in aid rankings amid signs of growing Chinese influence in Pacific

10 Apr, 2018

Australia has dropped two places to 19th as an aid donor compared to its allies amid reports that China has approached Australia’s near-neighbour Vanuatu about a military presence in the nation.

Responding to the news, CEO of the Australian Council for International Development, Marc Purcell, said:

“What we are seeing is the effects of the long-term decline in our soft power. A few days ago, defence experts stated publicly that aid cuts were diminishing Australia’s influence in the region and today we are seeing a clear-cut example of our neglect.

“The Government’s Foreign Policy White Paper sets out the opportunity to build peace and security in our region through a strong and consistent aid program, but we are facing further aid cuts. If the Government believes in its own mantra that the aid program should be used to serve our national interest, when will the Government deliver on it? The news of Chinese military expansion in the Pacific should be a wake-up call.”

In official preliminary data released by the OECD on development assistance amongst donor countries, Australia has fallen from 17th to 19th in a ranking of 29 countries. Australia was amongst countries such as, Greece and Hungary, who saw the largest declines in their aid budgets.  

“Good aid – primarily working for the poorest – builds stronger, closer and longer-term connections, benefiting diplomatic relations. As set out in the White Paper, aid is one important strand in Australia’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific, but we are not prepared to grasp this opportunity. We are on a downward trajectory to new aid lows which should be urgently reversed.”

Since 2013 – when Australia ranked 13th – Australia has fallen six places to 19th. This, in a period of consistent economic growth, compares to Greece – sitting only five places below Australia – which has seen nearly a decade of economic turmoil.

“After over 30% of cuts to the aid budget in recent years, we are increasingly seen as an unreliable development partner and a fair-weather friend. This happened when we withdrew from assistance in Africa and it will happen again. We are not doing justice to who we are as a compassionate nation and what we have to offer the world – our people, our expertise and our position as a prosperous country.”


Further Information

Australia’s ranking among OECD DAC members over time can be found on Development Policy Centre's Australian Aid Tracker.

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