Five new ideas for Australia & the Pacific
Don’t be fooled by the two bother brothers

Australia’s aid program needs to be focused

While rebuilding a strong and effective aid program will take time, there are already in existence opportunities to increase funding for highly effective multilateral programs

The 30-year demolition of Australia's foreign aid (Australian Council for International Development)
The 30-year demolition of Australia's foreign aid budget, 1972-2022 (Australian Council for International Development)

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CANBERRA - Poverty reduction and the United Nations’ sustainable development goals offer a good guiding framework for development aid.

Within this, however, Australia needs to carefully prioritise its aid spending both within countries and in its global programs.

This will be assisted if policymakers in Australia and the Pacific Islands are able to obtain better data on poverty.

This will serve a number of requirements: it will help put poor people on the policy agenda, help to target and design programs, and enable evaluation of performance.

The Pacific Community data hub linked to here is a good platform for making further progress.

But more attention is needed on policy coherence, putting incentives in the right place, reducing transaction costs and reinforcing local accountability.

Outcome-based aid, canvassed here in a paper by the Center for Global Development, is something to explore.

Rigorous evaluations are needed to better understand what works, why it works and, I emphasise again, to reinforce accountability.

Randomised controlled trials, an experimental form of impact evaluation, seem to be the gold standard, but there’s still lots of scope for more transparent and better evaluation.

In Australia, the abolition of the Office of Development Effectiveness in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was a retrograde step.

The department’s mission was to build stronger evidence for more effective aid and its work was much praised before it was abolished.

The requirement for independent evaluation remains and models need to be explored.

In short, evaluation needs a champion.

Transparency and accountability are other areas requiring attention.

The new Albanese government could consider legislating a mechanism for better public reporting on aid spending and results.

All that said, while rebuilding a strong and effective aid program will take time, there are many opportunities to quickly increase funding for highly effective multilateral programs already in existence.

These include the International Development Association, the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator and the Global Fund.

I can safely reiterate here what Julia Newton-Howes and I wrote back in 2015 (Where Australia’s case for aid went wrong – and what we can do to rebuild):

The case for international development needs to focus on how aid can support a broad range of Australia’s and the region’s shared interests, built on a foundation of poverty reduction.

The case needs to be made primarily to the political class.

If they are convinced, politicians are less likely to bag the aid program on spurious grounds (waste and mismanagement, borrowing money to send it overseas etc.).

And with less political bagging, the public will be happier with aid.

Building the case will involve:

Reframing narratives on Australia’s future and our place in the world, and the role and benefits of aid and development policies;

Developing a new approach to aid and development policy that can deliver those benefits, and that we can work towards; and

Appealing to core supporters, in both the political and public spheres, who want to end poverty, as well as aspirational Australians who want a better Australia and a better world, and building networks of supporters who can drive change.

The aid program is down, but not out. As in other areas of public policy, we need a new vision, and we must rebuild and renew.


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Bernard Corden

Dear Arthur,

Yet another example of corporate socialism.

Bernard Corden

Dear Arthur,

Yet another example of corporate socialism.

Arthur Williams

Never ceases to amaze me that 47 years after independence, with mineral resources the envy of many small populated nations and the ability to grow almost any food crops from tropical to cold temperate (now even rice after shedding Australian monopoly of it for 100 years), that PNG should ever need assistance from any other nation.

What it does show, and is the problem, is that for most of its recent history PNG has merely been a treasure house of wealth that has been ripped-out, raped, removed by the clever oilygarchs and their ilk aided and abetted by the elite spivs in and outside of government.

Only last Friday in the National, the MP for Yangoru, Saussia Maru, said: “No need for country to borrow....”

THE country should never borrow again for any mining and petroleum project so that enough revenue can be raised, People First Party (PFP) leader and Yangortu-Saussia MP Richard Maru says.

“In 10 years’ time, we want PNG to be economically independent. We do not need to go on borrowing, we have enough financial resources to run our country, it can be done in 10 years.

"We must never borrow again for any mining and petroleum projects, the loans are killing us, why should we borrow to invest in a mine that is basically the resources of Papua New Guineans, owned by Papua New Guineans.

"This is a very core policy of PFP, landowners don’t need to even raise equity, the state doesn’t need to raise equity, everything must be free carry, like you do in Malaysia, Indonesia, if they can do it, why can’t we do it.

"This is one way to stop unnecessary expenditure of repaying loans. This money should be raised and kept for us to pay for free school fees and hospital drugs.

"For example, New Zealand is a country with 5.5 million people, their internal revenue is sitting at K119 billion, PNG this year’s budget, we are going to raise K15 billion, we need K20 billion, K30 billion, K40 billion to build our country,” Maru said."

This is not just a PNG phenomenon but one of the 'Underdeveloped World' , 'The 3rd World', 'The South', 'As-pekpek Country' or whatever term you want to adopt for the ex-colonies, which have been subjected to economic warfare since the 1960s when most colonisers said, “Au revoir”. Notice they didn't say 'Adieu” as the bands played.

'We'll meet again. Don't know where, don't know when But I know we'll meet again some sunny day...' Sure enough up sprung the carpetbaggers, who remain.

The Texans recently announced Oil Search had exported over 800 shiploads of LNG. That is worth anything from K110 billion to K134 billion or more at 2015 prices.

The project cost about K35 billion.

At relatively little cost they will continue tapping into new fields north west of their current golden wells. As an integrated company it must have been happy as it saw Russia invade Ukraine and saw its retail revenue hitting almost undreamt-of highs in the first quarter of 2022 that continues after over 100 days of continuing warfare horrors.

They claimed it was £6 billion more than comparable 2021 quarter. Hence the adage: 'Every good businessman deserves a fire'.

Just imagine if PNG had really benefited from that project. Compare the recent good results from PNG's owned Ok Tedi mine

There is no such thing as free meal so the incoming government of PNG must ask themselves why do foreign nations want to donate millions to us.

What does Australia, China, EU, expect in return. After all the Pentecostal Oz PM has gone and they now have a non-practising Catholic of the hard left. (SMH 2009 Dec 26)

Lindsay F Bond

After an electoral gasp, now to comprehend, come to terms with, connect and grasp, as of humanity.

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