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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (PINA Nius Online, 30 April 2001)---Millions of dollars of New Zealand aid to be used to educate children in the South Pacific is misspent, says an Oxfam report published in a leading New Zealand newspaper.

Aid has been skewed toward giving islanders tertiary education in New Zealand, according to details of the report published by The Dominion newspaper.

But money is most needed in the South Pacific to provide basic schooling, says Oxfam, an internationally respected non-government development agency.

The Dominion quotes Oxfam as saying: "We believe the New Zealand government is missing the target."

About 30 per cent of New Zealand’s $226.5 million (US$ 93,657,750) aid budget is spent on education in the South Pacific, The Dominion says. This is one of the highest percentages of all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

But it says less than seven percent of aid money for education goes to basic education - including schools, programs for adult literacy and vocational training for poorly educated young people.

"While we applaud the amount of New Zealand aid to education in the South Pacific, we urge the government to re-focus the application of this aid," the report says.

"There simply aren’t enough basic schools to go around."

Oxfam executive director Terri-Ann Scorer said on Sunday that if New Zealand did not reprioritize spending, development in the Pacific would stall.

The Dominion quotes her as saying: "There is a real correlation between literacy and health, so we will see people in the Pacific continuing to suffer from preventable diseases.

"There are also things like the civil unrest that we have seen that are exacerbated by having a population that is not well educated."

Associate Foreign Affairs Minister Matt Robson told The Dominion he would carefully consider the report, along with a more wide-ranging independent review of New Zealand’s Overseas Development Assistance, which had recently been completed.

There would definitely be changes to the way aid was allocated, he said.

The Dominion said the Oxfam report:

· calls on the Government to create a significant program for basic education in the Pacific;

· allocate at least 50 percent of aid for education to the program;

· and recruit a team of education specialists to develop a support policy.

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