The Australian Federal Budget delivered last night has increased aid to the Pacific.
An extra A$211 million has been allocated to COVID-19 response in the form of grants, agreed in negotiations with recipient countries, in addition to the $4 billion previously earmarked for international assistance. Further, a small increase in aid due to cuts in assistance in other regions has also been made.
Devex reports that PNG will remain the largest recipient, receiving A$491.1 million, although this is less than the previous budget allocation. Climate partnership programs have also see their funding reduced by A$5.7 million.
As Stephen Howes at the Australian National University writes, the COVID-19 response is being communicated separately to the main aid allocation, perhaps because “the government does not want to be seen to be providing a permanent boost to aid.”
Australia has made big cuts to its aid to South and West Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa. These cuts continue a trend that has been evident for some time.
Tim Costello, who heads Christian international NGO Micah Australia, says “This increased one-off support of AU$305 million for the COVID-19 response and recovery in the Pacific and Timor-Leste is good news for our closest neighbours whose economies and livelihoods are reeling from the pandemic.”
Oxfam Australia CEO Lyn Morgain has also welcomed the increased allocation, while saying it should be a permanent commitment: “It is heartening to see the Government’s recognition that this is not over for Australians until it is over for everyone. But this change of heart must be permanent.
The Australian government is forecasting a budget deficit of $213.7bn, or 11% of GDP, for 2020/21.