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Rethink Aussie aid to PNG: Institute

A researcher with the Lowy Institute says Australia must radically rethink the way it provides aid to Papua New Guinea. According to Jenny Hayward-Jones PNG’s most pressing needs include job creation, improved education and more infrastructure. But she says about half of Australia’s existing aid program of $400 million is spent on other things.

“People need jobs now, they need to go to school now, unless you do something quite radical, then you’ll continue with the current problems. Ordinary PNG people aren’t seeing the impact of the spending ... and Australian tax payers want to see outcomes.”

Ms Hayward-Jones says Australia’s current policy focused on good governance and strengthening PNG’s institutions. But those objectives were much more difficult to achieve and to show improvements in than building infrastructure. “More than 50% of Australian aid is delivered through ‘technical assistance’. The average with other international agencies is 24%,” she says. “That’s basically $200 million to administration, salaries, consultants’ fees and accommodation. It’s a big frustration in the Pacific in the amount of funds going there rather than a health clinic or school.”

Last week a PNG public accounts committee found evidence of gross incompetence in 15 Government departments and poor or non-existent record keeping. There is an estimated K1 billion missing from the public purse.

Ms Hayward-Jones says unless Australia’s policy on aid changed, its relationship with PNG would not progress. “They [the Australian government] risk the usual relationship problems that we’ve had with PNG when PNG doesn’t deliver the outcomes promised,” she warns. “It’s unclear what Australia will do in such a case. Does Australia then punish PNG by withdrawing aid?”

Source: ‘ Australia must rethink aid policy on PNG: think-tank’, By Ilya Gridneff, AAP


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