| Devex | Edited extracts
CANBERRA — The Australian federal budget was revealed last night - after a six-month delay due to Covid-19 - and aims to spend big in an effort to boost jobs and economic growth.
Australia’s aid program will be $4 billion for the 2020-21 financial year, a boost of $304.7 million.
Papua New Guinea’s funding drops slightly from K1.3 billion to K1.2 billion.
There is no clarity yet on how these funds will be spent, with priorities to be determined in partnership with the recipient countries.
The 2019 budget promoted its highest-ever spending to the Pacific — with this increasing again in the 2020 budget.
The Pacific is set to receive $1.44 billion in development and humanitarian assistance over the coming year.
Among bilateral country programs, Papua New Guinea remains the largest recipient with $491.1 million (K1.2 billion) — down from $512.3 million (K1.3 billion) in 2019-20.
Small island developing states are the recipients of the budget boost, with an additional $4 million allocated to Kiribati, $3.3 million to Nauru, and $2.5 million to Tonga. Pacific regional programs are set to increase by $43.2 million to $274.7 million.
Among global programs, health, water, and sanitation have received a much needed boost after declining in focus. From $102.4 million allocated in 2019-20, this budget sees the allocation expand to $168.2 million in this financial year.
The Australian aid program will be placing a more critical eye on the deliverables of multilateral institutions.
Gender equality initiatives will receive a $10 million boost, with $65 million allocated for the coming year. The humanitarian budget, incorporating refugee support and other unbudgeted needs in response to Covid-19, will also increase from $450 million to $475.7 million. The emergency response fund, commonly used to support the response to natural disasters, is responsible for this boost with an increase from $150 million to $200 million.
While areas of Australia’s aid budget are growing, it is at the expense of others. Bilateral aid programs supporting sub-Saharan Africa have dropped from $31.8 million to just $15 million.
The Middle East and North Africa region has suffered a similar fate, with a $3.4 million budget cut to $17.1 million.
DFAT’s innovation program, which had a budget of $35 million two years ago, has been reduced to just $6 million.
Climate partnership programs have also dropped from $25.7 million to $20 million — although they did appear as their own a budget line item rather than traditionally being grouped as “other sectoral programs.”
The Australian Volunteers Program and scholarship and education initiatives suffered budget cuts as Covid-19 made travel difficult for continuing in their previous forms. Overall, these programs have been reduced by AU$32.2 million in total.
The boost to the emergency humanitarian fund was also made at the expense of global humanitarian partnerships — in particular, humanitarian partnerships with the International Committee of the Red Cross and World Food Program.