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Australia's PNG hand-out drops slightly to K1.2b

2020-21 budget papers (Lukas Coch  AAP)LISA CORNISH
| 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 winners

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.

The losers

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.


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Lindsay F Bond

As encompassed in "explosive fallout", Phil.

Perpetuating a name that in English spells noble, of a person and process by a word so identified, has spawned (if not spurned) a foil in an ignoble 'price'.

What readers might appraise is the process of gifting, where some is 'prior' and some is 'post'.

That aid which is truly in earnest, is gifted ahead of results.

That prizing which is attention seeking, follows achievement of others.

Phil's word "suspicious" understates a demeaning of gifting.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I'm not sure about the various Nobel prizes, Lindsay, especially since they are an endowment of the inventor of dynamite.

In particular the peace prize has always been suspicious. How a war criminal like Henry Kissinger can get such a prize is very curious.

So too was Barack Obama's peace prize when he was happily ordering assassinations using drone strikes.

Lindsay F Bond

Some folk may be surprised that at a topic on so-called “hand-out,’ my comment, while in support of Paul’s contribution, urges a look at the possibilities of giving and receiving.
Step away a moment to look at news of today, “Genome editing wins Nobel chemistry prize”.
Notable firstly is that the Nobel Chemistry Prize in 2020, is awarded to a team of women (no males), and after that fact is allowed to resonate, the achievement is of enormous potential to humans everywhere.
The team is two women Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, both being Professors. They have achieved precise cutting of any DNA that then allows the code of life to be rewritten.
It is acknowledged: "The ability to cut DNA where you want has revolutionised the life sciences."
Such a grand recognition is at a time when COVID-19 has such prominence in conversations worldwide.
As Professor Charpentier said "I wish that this will provide a positive message specifically for young girls who would like to follow the path of science...and to show them that women in science can also have an impact with the research they are performing."
What discipline of science, of endeavour for humanity, of leadership that will benefit all.
The giving and receiving of gifted aid has many formats, and dare it be said, Nobel came from explosive fallout.

Paul Oates

I have cultural aversion to refer to 'winners and losers'. This inclination appears to have become inculcated by osmosis with the US concepts of the winner being able to achieve his aim by being a 'rugged individual'.

Aid programs are by their very nature, not supposed to be designed to be the 'be all, end all'. They are supposed to enable those to whom they are being offered some help to assist them to achieve better results.

To infer that someone is a 'loser' creates a mindset that they have actually lost something already rightfully theirs. Conversely, by calling someone a 'winner' likewise infers they have won something they didn't possess like having bought a lottery ticket and then had their name pulled out of a hat.

The whole concept of winners and losers infers that someone is not only better off and therefore is able to give to someone who is less well off. This tends to promote a mindset of frustration and dependency in the aid recipient that they can be and are being denied what should rightfully be theirs.

This mindset naturally promotes the idea that thinking and working at home grown self help projects is just too hard and not worth the effort unless it is paid for and managed by the aid giver.

A far better approach to overseas aid would be to gauge and report on the value and achievements of home grown self help projects that have been assisted by aid to actually become useful, practical and self maintaining.

So called 'Boomerang aid' where foreign consultants are paid megabucks to fill out complex returns to satisfy the aid giver's budget are a recipe for deflated and often wasted efforts with the people they are supposed to assist.

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