Banham: Why Australian Taxpayers Should Be Worried About The Growing Aid Budget

The Australian government has no clear plan on how it is going to use its soaring aid budget, and that is one issue that Australian taxpayers should be concerned about more than the funding increase itself, according to an Australian newspaper columnist.

Cynthia Banham notes that Australia has not only doubled its aid to USD4.3 billion over the last five years but will double it again in the next five. As reported by Devex, Australia intends to bring its official development assistance to 0.5 percent of the gross national income by 2015.

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“But consider this: there is no concrete plan or strategic framework setting out how and where this extra $4 billion will be spent in the next five years,” Banham says in an op-ed for The Sydney Morning Herald.

She takes the example of the Australian aid money for Central and South America. As compared to zero funding three years ago, Australia’s aid allocation to the region today amounts to USD36 million, Banham notes.

She says: “The obvious question is why is Australia spending money in a region with which it has limited connection? The United Nations Security Council bid perhaps? The more thinly aid is spread across multiple countries and programs, the greater the burden on the recipient states to manage multiple donors. So a further question becomes, is this aid to Latin America really helping?”

She also questions whether AusAID can actually manage the work that comes with the growing aid budget. Banham cites a report by the country’s auditor-general that the agency is struggling, with the staff being stressed and the turnover being high.

Addressing this challenge, along with securing the Australian public’s approval, is a task for Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd, which Banham says “will not be easy, in part because it requires dramatically changing a risk-averse culture, which has marked AusAID until this point, and has seen it shy away from scrutiny.” She, however, observes that the new AusAID director-general, Peter Baxter, “might be changing things.”

About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.