Coalition quietly reverses foreign aid cuts

Recent increases take Australia’s foreign aid spending back to the same level as 2015-16 (CARE Australia)

The Morrison Government has substantially lifted foreign aid spending in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, reversing some of the funding cuts made to poorer nations during the past decade. Source: The Age.

Australia’s aid expenditure will be $4.4 billion in 2020-21, an increase of 9 per cent on last financial year, new analysis shows.

But Australian National University economist Stephen Howes, who used publicly available documents to calculate the growth in aid spending, said it appeared the Government did not want to draw attention to the increased help for low-income nations.

Professor Howes said there has to yet be a full official estimate of aid expenditure for 2020-21.

The Coalition Government cut aid spending in real terms for six budgets in a row between 2013-14 and 2018-19. Annual aid spending fell from $5.5 billion to $4.1 billion over that period, after adjusting for inflation.

The cuts pushed foreign aid to an all-time low when measured as a share of national income, according to the Australian aid tracker website.

But the downward trend in Australia’s foreign aid spending has reversed in the past few months. Shortly after the October federal budget, the Government announced it would spend $500 million in support of COVID-19 vaccine access in the Pacific and south-east Asia. Then in mid-November, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an additional $485 million over four-year to support the region’s recovery.

Professor Howes said the recent increases take Australia’s foreign aid spending back to the same level as 2015-16, after adjusting for inflation.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the “series of temporary and targeted measures” were introduced due to the impact of COVID-19 on the region.

FULL STORY

Coalition begins to quietly reverse deep foreign aid cuts (By Mark Wade, The Age)

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