AUSTRALIA’s foremost grassroots anti-poverty organisation, RESULTS International (Australia), has today expressed its disappointment that the country’s foreign aid program will be cut by $7.6 billion over the next five years, which represents the biggest savings measure by the Coalition Government in the 2014-15 Federal Budget that was released on Tuesday, May 13.
“Australia’s foreign aid program only represents 1.25 per cent of the total Federal Budget, yet the program accounts for one-fifth of the total savings over the next four years,” Chief Executive Officer of RESULTS International (Australia), Ms Maree Nutt, said.
Australia’s aid budget will decline from the current 0.33 per cent of Gross National Income to 0.32 per cent in 2014-15 and 0.29 per cent of GNI in 2017-18. Australian foreign aid will be capped at $5 billion over the next two financial years.
Over the last decade, Australia’s overseas development assistance has contributed in the prevention of millions of new HIV infections and has successfully treated millions with AIDS. It has also provided insecticide-treated bed nets against malaria, helping cut deaths in half worldwide.
RESULTS is urging the Government to recommit to increasing aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2021 to ensure Australia contributes to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2016-17, foreign aid will grow in line with the Consumer Price Index as $2 billion has been removed from the projected foreign aid budget in 2017-18.
RESULTS is also concerned over the apparent reductions of the Government’s Global Health programs, which have been reduced by $100 million, but welcomes an increase in its Global Educations programs, which have risen from $70 million to $100 million.
“The Medical Research Future Fund is also promising for the future direction of our foreign aid program as it has the potential to enable Australia to make a bigger contribution to combat diseases of poverty in our region,” Ms Nutt added.
Ms Nutt hopes that part of this fund will also go towards Australia’s Medical Research Strategy, which is geared towards researching cures for diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria.
Ms Nutt also asks the Government to clarify what their interim payment will be to the public-private immunisation program GAVI Alliance for 2014 and 2015.
“The GAVI Alliance is just one of those multilateral organisations that will help our Foreign Affairs Minister, Ms Julie Bishop, to deliver her promised benchmarks for the foreign aid program,” Ms Nutt said.
“Limiting our foreign aid budget isn’t really looking after our economic interest because a more prosperous region really means a more prosperous Australia,” Ms Nutt said.