Plan International Australia has expressed deep concern at the Federal Government’s lack of commitment to Australia’s aid program after effectively cutting the aid budget yet again in its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO), despite the forecast return to surplus.
The government has failed to link the aid and development budget to the Consumer Price Index, resulting in real-terms cuts over the forward estimates.
Funding for parts of the aid program are also being diverted to pay for the creation of an infrastructure lending facility for the Pacific. A total of $500 million has been reallocated from the existing grants-based aid program, to part-fund the proposed $2 billion infrastructure facility and Pacific step-up.
Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said it was a disappointing step backwards at a time when the need for aid funding was greater than ever.
“While we welcome the government’s increased commitment to support Australia’s neighbours in the Pacific, we are deeply concerned that funding may be cut from critical programs that alleviate poverty and inequality to fund increased infrastructure spending,” said Ms Legena.
“With the government announcing a budget surplus, now is the time to prioritise increasing Australia’s aid – we all have a duty to support families and children in need, wherever they are in the world.
“While infrastructure spending is vital to improve the lives of those in the Pacific, it should not be done at the expense of high quality aid programs, such as those delivering education, health, clean water and sanitation, which have been core to Australia’s aid assistance for many years.
“Put simply, more roads and bridges should not mean less healthcare and education.
“The Pacific is tackling a range of complex issues. It’s facing the worst impacts of climate change, limited opportunities for its young people to be educated and employed, and high rates of violence against women and girls.
“Any loan facility should be in addition to Australia’s aid program, not leeching from it – this program is already at its lowest level in history.
“Plan International Australia continues to call on both major political parties to commit to ensuring 0.7% of GNI goes to our life-changing aid and development program.”
About Plan International
Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.
We believe in the power and potential of every child. But this is often suppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination. And it’s girls who are most affected. Working together with children, young people, our supporters and partners, we strive for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children.
We support children’s rights from birth until they reach adulthood. And we enable children to prepare for – and respond to – crises and adversity. We drive changes in practice and policy at local, national and global levels using our reach, experience and knowledge.
We have been building powerful partnerships for children for over 75 years, and are now active in more than 70 countries.