Australia Criticized For Delaying Aid Monies To Pacific Region

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Groups disappointed as government allegedly ignores promises

By Girish Sawlani

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, May 9, 2012) – The aid group World Vision Australia says people most in need in South East Asia and the Pacific will be disadvantaged by the Australian Government's decision to delay the doubling of its foreign aid funding.

In its national budget, the government says the 12-month delay will save AU$2.9 billion [US$2.94 billion].

The chief executive of World Vision, Tim Costello, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat up to 200,000 lives will be lost as a direct result.

"Those dollars just aren't a figure, they play out in how you care for people who aren't getting good yields in agriculture, and feeding their children," he said.

"[They’re] how you actually get the techniques and agricultural improvements to them, how you get the clean water to them, how you get the trained midwives and attendants."

Other aid groups criticized the Government's delay as part of its efforts to achieve a budget surplus.

Beneficiary nations in the Pacific will see a mix of moderate rises and cuts as a result.

The government is forecast to save AU$2.9 billion over four years by deferring its goal to raise foreign aid spending.

The rise was to take aid to 0.5 percent of gross national income in 2015.

The foreign aid budget will still increase from AU$4.8 billion [US$4.87 billion] this financial year to AU$5.1 billion [US$5.17 billion] for the next year in absolute terms.

There will be moderate increases for Vanuatu, Samoa and Fiji.

But Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands will see a decrease in relation to what the projected outcomes are for 2011-2012.

The Australian Treasurer, Wayne Swan, says Australia will still be among the biggest donor countries.

But aid groups say the Government is walking away from its commitment to the millennium development goals - under which 190 nations promised they would lift aid spending from, in an Australian terms, 35 cents in every $100 to 70 cents.

Walking away

Oxfam Australia's executive director, Andrew Hewett, says he is bitterly disappointed.

"The casualties of the Government's broken promise are some of the poorest people in the world, they're people who lack access to clean water to sanitation to health care, to education," he said.

"The aid program was an investment in them and an investment in a more stable and prosperous region."

Around 70 percent of Australia's foreign aid is spent in the Asia-Pacific region.

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