Confirmed: Australia defers aid hike commitment

A member of Australian Agency for International Development checks out the water purification system set up by Australia's defense force in Padang, Indonesia. Australia is set to reveal its 2012-1013 budget, which will confirm or dismiss the fears that the country will back out of its commitment to increase foreign aid spending. Photo by: Australian Civil-Military Centre / CC BY

Australia will continue to increase its aid spending, but at a slower pace than hoped.

For 2012-2013, Australia will have an aid budget of 5.2 billion Australian dollars ($5.3 billion), an AU$300 million increase from the previous year and a total of AU$2 billion since the Labour government came to power in 2007, according to a May 8 statement by Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Carr.

Carr, however, confirmed what many nongovernmental organizations had feared: Australia will postpone meeting its promise to bring aid spending to 0.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2015.

Australian legislators began in April to push for a two-year postponement of the aid target. Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s failure to address the issue had fueled concerns that the plan will likely push through.

Here are some of the key features of the new Australian aid budget:

  • The top five bilateral aid recipients will be Indonesia (AU$578.4 million), Papua New Guinea (AU$491.7 million), Solomon Islands (AU$239.4 million), Afghanistan (AU$201.7 million) and Vietnam (AU$150.4 million).

  • Pakistan is set to receive AU$96.4 million, while AU$354.6 million has been allocated for countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • The core funding for 10 U.N. agencies will increase: U.N. Population Fund, UNAIDS, World Food Program, World Health Organization, International Labor Organization, UNICEF, U.N. Development Program, UN Women, U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

  • AU$83.1 million for the 2013-2016 cycle of the Asian Development Fund and AU$189.5 million for the 2012-2015 funding round of the World Bank’s International Development Association.

  • AU$435.6 million for humanitarian response and preparedness in Asia and Pacific over the next four years.

  • AU$208.6 million for a new initiative dubbed Closing Development Gaps in East Asia. The initiative aims to improve education in Myanmar, agriculture in Cambodia and expand education access in Laos.

  • AU$384.5 million for a new four-year initiative to reduce poverty and build stability in the Pacific.

On the multilateral aid front, Australia plans to pursue membership with the African Development Bank and the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development. The country also seeks a stronger partnership with the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations.

As part of the new budget document, Australia unveiled a new four-year aid strategy that forecasts future aid allocations and identifies expected results from Australian Agency for International Development programs by 2015-2016.

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.