Australia

Foreign aid expected to be spared further budget cuts

After four years and millions of dollars in budget cuts, foreign aid spending is expected to see a modest increase in the Budget, as the world battles the worst global humanitarian crisis since the end of WWII.

An increase, however modest, to foreign aid spending in this month’s Budget would be a sigh of relief for a sector that’s long felt like it is seen as low-hanging fruit.

“No sector has been cut anything like as much as foreign aid,” Stephen Howes, from the Australian National University Policy Centre, told SBS News.

For the 2016-17 financial year, foreign aid spending was cut by $244m from $4.05bn to $3.83bn.

In 2015-16, it was cut by $1bn from $5.03bn down to $4.05bn.

“In the last four years we’ve seen cuts, major cuts to the aid budget, one third in real terms,” Mr Howes said.

“This is a time of crisis so this is not a time when we can really afford to cut we’re facing the worst global humanitarian crisis since the end of the Second World War.”

Australia currently spends 23 cents in every $100 of national income on aid, proportionately less than smaller countries like Belgium and Ireland.

The United Kingdom spends 70 cents in every $100.

The Australian government has committed to achieving a similar sustainable development goal by 2030.

Eighteen of Australia's twenty closest neighbours are developing countries.

Mr Howes says a large portion of Australia’s aid spending goes to neighbouring countries in the Asia Pacific to help remedy issues that could impact people here.

One of those is multi drug resistant tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea.

“There is a flow of people two ways between PNG and Australia and we’ll increasingly face that problem here in Australia as well.”

With more than 767 million people still living on less than US$1.90 a day, Oxfam Australia says the need for aid funding is clear.

“There’s a human face to the impact of these cuts and we should never lose sight of that,” Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke told SBS News.

“Aid is at its lowest level ever in terms of a proportion of our gross national income.

“It’s incomprehensible that we would cut it anymore.”

Australia recently dropped in the global aid rankings from 16 to 17 out of the 28 wealthy OECD nations that give aid.

Private donations however are growing faster than the rate of inflation.

Iraqi officials call for humanitarian aid

Source: SBS World News Australia

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