ADI Director takes tough stance on Australia’s aid program

Advancing Society and Culture

In a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia’s aid program, Professor Fethi Mansouri, Director of the Alfred Deakin Institute, has argued Australia is not pulling its weight in the global community.

The Parliamentary inquiry into the ‘strategic effectiveness and outcomes of Australia’s aid program in the Indo Pacific and its role in supporting our regional interests’ is an opportunity for review of the changes to Australia’s aid framework that were made in 2014. These changes direct 90 per cent of Australia’s aid budget to the Indo-Pacific region and refocus the aid program on two outcomes: supporting private sector development, and strengthening human development.

However, Deakin University’s Professor Fethi Mansouri, Director of the Alfred Deakin Institute (ADI) argues that these changes obscure the unjustifiably large cuts to Australia’s aid budget at a time when the global community needs our assistance the most.

“Poverty, insecurity, illiteracy, disease, along with a growing number of refugees and internally displaced people are some of the global concerns that have pushed many states to proactively share the responsibility to help those in need. Despite its growing gross national income, Australia paradoxically has reduced its foreign aid budget once again,” Professor Mansouri said in his submission.

Professor Mansouri points to the long-standing United Nations target that recommends developed countries like Australia allocate 0.7 per cent of their gross national income (GNI) to their aid programs. While only a handful of countries have met this target, with even fewer enshrining it into law, Australia has continued to slide further away in every Federal Budget since 2013.

In 2018-19, Australia’s aid budget will be $4.1 billion, which equates to 0.22 per cent of GNI, or just 0.86 per cent of the total Federal Budget for the year.

“Our aid program is incredibly effective and efficient, and our generosity has had a huge impact on increasing the quality of life for less fortunate people around the globe, but we can and should do more.”
Professor Fethi Mansouri
Professor Fethi Mansouri Director of the Alfred Deakin Institute (ADI)

“Research conducted with the Alfred Deakin Institute shows that rather than cutting aid programs, Australia should at least keep pace with OECD average allocations, if not gradually improve on that,” Professor Mansouri said.

An oft-cited argument against increasing Australia’s aid budget is that it does not provide a clear benefit to Australians and we should be focussing our attention on domestic issues. Yet Professor Mansouri points to trade benefits to the Australian economy with every dollar spent on aid.

“Some recent research out of the Australian National University shows that aid can increase exports in the long-run where every ‘one dollar of Australian aid increases Australian exports to the recipient by $7.10’.”

In light of this, Professor Mansouri’s submissions argued for three interconnected aims:

  • increasing the overall foreign aid allocation in proportion to GDP, bringing it more in line with other developed countries;
  • expanding strategically the geographic reach of Australia’s foreign aid programs; and
  • ensuring there are proper and effective mechanisms for implementing allocated funds in innovative and sustainable ways.

Professor Matthew Clarke, Head of Deakin’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Chengxin Pan, Associate Professor of International Relations with Deakin’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the University of Sydney’s Dr Sophie Wilson also made a joint submission to the inquiry. Their submission focused on the impact that increasing Chinese aid and investment in the Pacific will have on Australia’s regional relationships.

View Professor Mansouri’s full submission, as well as those made by Professor Clarke, Associate Professor Pan and Dr Wilson and other organisations, on the Parliament of Australia website.

 

Published by Deakin Research on 14 June 2018

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