Budget 2011–12: Official Development Assistance: a commitment kept
Dr Ravi Tomar
According to the Aid Budget Statement 2011–12, Australia’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget for 2011–12 is $4836.2 million, which is $474.4 million more than the estimated outcome for 2010–11. This represents a 8.4 per cent increase in real terms over the estimated outcome for 2010–11. It is estimated that Australia’s ODA will be about 0.35 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) in 2011–12, up from 0.33 per cent in 2010–11.
The Statement reaffirms the Government’s commitment to increasing the ODA/GNI ratio to 0.5 per cent by 2015–16:
The Government has committed to increase Australia’s ODA/GNI ratio to 0.5 per cent by 2015-16. To reach this target, the Government expects to increase Australian aid to around 0.38 per cent of GNI in 2012-13, 0.42 per cent of GNI in 2013-14 and 0.46 per cent of GNI in 2014-15.
Indonesia has re-emerged as the largest bilateral recipient of Australian aid ($558.1 million), followed by Papua New Guinea ($482.3 million).
Compared to previous years, the revised format of the Aid Budget Statement 2011–12 is more reader-friendly and has increased both the transparency and availability of information. Australia has also signed the International Aid Transparency Initiative ‘through which donors are implementing a range of transparency commitments by developing a common standard of reporting’.
Each country snapshot is accompanied by information on priority areas and the provision of Australian assistance in those sectors.
For the first time, information is available on ODA-eligible expenditure by Other Government Departments (OGDs) which forms part of the aid budget and is estimated at $529.1 million in 2011–12, up from an estimated outcome of $512.2 million in 2010–11. For example, the Australian Federal Police will spend an estimated $217.7 million as ODA-eligible expenditure in 2011–12 and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship an estimated $65.9 million.
New initiatives announced in the aid budget include:
- an investment of $433.1 million over four years to improve water, sanitation and hygiene
- an expenditure of $244 million over four years to provide more than 1000 volunteer assignments per year and to double the AusAID-NGO Cooperation Program, enabling ten more Australian NGOs to participate
- some $96.4 million over four years towards eliminating violence towards women by providing support through women’s crisis centres in the Pacific and supporting United Nations programs
- $124.5 million over four years to increase access to education in the Pacific
- $21.3 million over four years to tackle preventable blindness in East Asia
- an investment of $492.8 million over four years in Indonesia to improve education services, including building 2000 schools
- an expenditure of $462.6 million over four years to expand assistance to Africa and the Middle East
- $32 million over four years to support rapid deployment of Australian Civilian Corps specialists to countries experiencing or emerging from major conflicts and disasters.
Major aid reviews
In 2010, a review of the use of advisers by the aid program was carried out. New measures have been introduced as a result of this review to provide better guidance in the use of advisers.
In November 2010, the Government commissioned the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness—the first independent review in almost fifteen years. The report was submitted to the Minister for Foreign Affairs in late April. The Government intends to release the Review and a formal response to its recommendations by mid-2011.
In December 2010, AusAID commissioned a review of its procurement and grants administration practices. The review recommendations are currently being examined and the report is expected to be released by mid-2011.