Now that we will be back in surplus, Australia should aim to deliver the international standard in foreign aid, not further erode it

SYDNEY, Monday 17 December 2018:  As Australia’s budget is now scheduled to return to surplus, UNICEF Australia calls upon the federal government to restore its aid program to previous levels of $5.5 billion and to progressively increase this to the international standard by 2030.
 
This equates to immediately restoring the aid budget to just 0.3 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI), with a 2030 target of 0.7 per cent. Australia’s aid budget is currently less than 1 per cent of government spending.
 
Today’s release of the government’s Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook report indicated an increase of aid in the Pacific would be delivered through the funding of infrastructure loans, but was unclear about whether this would come at the expense of existing programs.
 
UNICEF Australia ’s Senior Policy Advisor, Oliver White, said the aid that Australia gives to other countries is at an all-time low and is one of the lowest contributions of all OECD countries (the 34 free market economy countries that have committed to promoting policies which will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world).
 
“Australia is a high income country ,and we should contribute foreign aid investment, and local technical expertise in creating better outcomes for children across the region," Mr White said. “It’s also in Australia’s interest to help its neighbours develop stable and prosperous societies as this reduces the chance of insecurity and conflict in our region.”
 
Mr White said a smart way to help a neighbour develop is to help them support their best asset – their children. One way Australia can do this is through its foreign aid program.
 
“Growing inequality around the world means more and more children everywhere – both in Australia and overseas – are not getting a fair chance at life,” Mr White said. “Unfortunately, many countries around the world lack the resources needed to provide their children with an adequate standard of living, quality education and opportunities to develop to their full potential.”
 
“Foreign aid is not wasted money. It helps children grow up healthy and well educated. Healthy and educated children grow up to be independent and productive citizens that can help lift their own families and communities out of poverty,” Mr White said. “Australia’s foreign aid helps countries in the region to provide basic social services and infrastructure – such as hospitals and schools – which are critical for a child’s health and wellbeing.”
 
He said, with all of this in mind, UNICEF Australia is very concerned that the government has said existing parts of the aid program will be siphoned off to pay for the creation of an infrastructure lending facility for the Pacific. 
 
“We note that the government has not clarified how the infrastructure lending facility will operate,” Mr White said. “That being the case, UNICEF Australia urges the government not to further erode the current historically low levels of Australian foreign aid to deliver this loan facility program, but to independently fund it.”
 

For more information, please contact:
Brinsley Marlay, UNICEF Australia, 0403 604 182, bmarlay@unicef.org.au