As expected by foreign aid advocates and development experts, the Australian government announced on Tuesday further cuts to the country’s already reduced official development assistance budget.
The release of the federal budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year confirmed the predictions that a significant part of savings will come from ODA allocation to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which will go up slightly to AU$4.53 billion this year but decrease to $4.46 billion in 2015-2016, below the $4.5 billion cap set two weeks ago by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
DFAT, which now handles the country's aid portfolio after having absorbed the former AusAID, defended this is the only way Australia can deliver an “aid program ... that it can responsibly afford.”
“The 2014-15 budget will support a sustainable, affordable and accountable aid program that invests $5 billion each year to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and enhance stability in our region,” the department said in a statement, adding that a “new aid policy and performance framework to better promote Australia's national interests” will soon be rolled out with more specifics on efficiency and effectiveness in future development efforts.
The overall 2014-2015 budget estimate for ODA — including activities carried out by other government departments — remains unchanged from 2013-2014 at $5.032 billion, to $5.034 billion and $5.16 billion in the next two fiscal years, adjusted by the consumer price index.
Africa, South and Central Asia and the Middle East — as a whole — will receive the bulk of Australian aid with $AU1.131 billion, while East Asia and the Pacific are set to get $1.063 billion and $967 million, respectively. Multilateral replenishments were subject to the biggest cut with a 55.4 percent reduction to $118 million from $265 million, and emergency response and humanitarian appropriations as well as NGO and volunteer programs increased to $339 million and $204 million, respectively.
Local NGOs, as expected, reacted immediately to the foreign aid budget cuts.
“The Australian aid program has already taken some enormous hits over the past two years, and these cuts may begin to put many of the outstanding gains made in our region at risk,’ CARE Australia CEO Robert Yallop said in a statement sent to Devex. “As a nation we do not have to choose between Australia’s economic interests and helping the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty. Australia is still one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and we can afford to do both.”
Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.