‘Not a club we should be part of’: Australia slumps in generosity rankings

Australia has tumbled down the international league table of foreign aid donors after the share of national income used to assist poorer nations hit an all-time low last year.

Australia gave 19 cents in foreign aid for every $100 of national income in 2020 according to new figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. That compares with around 33 cents in aid for every $100 of national income in 2011.

Out of the 29 OECD member nations that provide foreign aid, only eight now give a smaller share of national income than Australia – and that group includes Greece and Portugal which were both badly hit by the European debt crisis and relatively new donor nations such as Korea. In 2014 there were 17 OECD aid donors which contributed a smaller share of national income than Australia.

Australia’s slide in global foreign aid rankings follows repeated cuts to aid spending by the Coalition government between 2013 and 2019.

Analysis by Australian National University’s Professor Stephen Howes shows that between 2011 and 2020 Australian aid fell by 31 per cent, after adjusting for inflation, while foreign aid overall increased by 26 per cent in that period.

“The world has over the last decade been increasing aid, while Australia has been cutting it,” he said. “We definitely stand out.”

In 2012 Australia’s overseas aid made up 4.3 per cent of the global total but has since fallen almost every year. But by 2020 Australia contributed only 1.6 per cent of global aid, less than half its 2011 share.

The analysis comes on the eve of the federal budget which will update Australia’s foreign aid spending. The government has been under pressure to provide more to assist developing country neighbours respond to COVID-19 and to counter growing Chinese influence in the Pacific region with higher aid spending.

The economic disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak is likely to push up the number of people living in extreme poverty in Australia’s immediate region.

The Morrison government announced a series of “temporary and targeted” aid measures in last October’s federal budget, to assist regional neighbours hit by the coronavirus pandemic. That increase is likely to lift Australia’s foreign aid as a share of national income in 2021.

In a statement to the Herald and The Age a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australia was a “generous donor” providing $4 billion in assistance to developing nations this financial year.

“This is affordable, targeted and effective,” the spokesperson said. “In recognition of the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, the Government has increased its support to our region, announcing temporary, targeted and supplementary initiatives to the ongoing $4 billion overseas development assistance (ODA) budget. Australia’s response includes more than $700 million over three years from 2020-21 to help our neighbours in the Pacific and Southeast Asia access safe and effective vaccines.”

But Professor Howes said Australia had for the first time joined the OECD’s “0.2 per cent club” – the group of donors who give less than 0.2 per cent of national income.

“It is not a club we should be part of,” he said.

Sweden and Norway were the two most generous donors as a share of national income from among OECD nations last year while the two biggest donors in dollar terms were the United States and Germany. The OECD analysis does not include some donors who are not members of the organisation including China.

Foreign aid from OECD donor nations reached an all-time high of $US161.2 billion in 2020, up 3.5 per cent in real terms from 2019. The OECD said many donor nations “mobilised to help developing countries grappling with the COVID-19 crisis” with higher aid spending.

However, the OECD figures showed Australia’s foreign aid spending was 11 per cent lower in 2020 compared with 2019.

Most Viewed in Politics

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article