AUSTRALIA TRIMS FUNDING TO FIJI

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 10) – The Australian Government has reduced assistance to Fiji in light of the December 5 military takeover and will monitor steps to restore democracy before it pours in more funding.

A statement from the Australian High Commission yesterday, the Pacific will receive a 20 percent increase in assistance in general while Fiji's assistance decreases because of the military takeover.

"In Fiji, Australia will continue to support aid initiatives helping to improve the welfare and economic opportunities of the ordinary people of Fiji," the Australian High Commission statement read. "There has been a reduction in total funding to Fiji to AU$28.7 million [US$23.7 million], down from AU$33.8 million [US$27.9] to reflect that the actions of the military have compromised the integrity and effectiveness of our assistance in key areas such as the law and justice sector (police and courts). There is scope to provide additional funding to Fiji through global initiatives in later years, and to increase our engagement in governance related activities, including electoral assistance, if it is clear that the interim government is taking concrete steps to restore democracy in Fiji."

The statement came in the wake of Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer saying economic growth in much of the Pacific had stalled.

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