Federal Budget includes $305 million aid boost for anti-COVID measures

Federal Budget includes $305 million aid boost for anti-COVID measures

The Federal Budget handed down by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday 6 October includes a temporary boost to funding for Australia’s aid program in the Pacific.

The $305 million boost is designed to help Australia’s neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region respond to COVID-19.

Micah Australia CEO Tim Costello welcomed the additional money, with some reservations.

“This increased one-off support of $305 million for the COVID-19 response and recovery in the Pacific and Timor-Leste is good news for our closest neighbours whose economies and livelihoods are reeling from the pandemic,” Rev. Costello said.

However, Rev. Costello criticised the government for cutting aid elsewhere in the budget.

“But it comes at the cost of cuts to other programs, including aid to South and West Asia, Afghanistan, Africa and the World Food Programme.”

“This aid budget does not go far enough to address the greatest threat to global progress on poverty we have seen in our lifetime.”

The announcement comes following recent World Bank predictions that suggest that by 2021 an additional 110 to 150 million people will fall into extreme poverty due to COVID-19.

The budget has also been criticised by Uniting Church leaders for lacking funding for causes that affect women and girls.

UnitingWorld’s National Director Sureka Goringe said that Australia should recognise hidden aspects of the crisis and adopt measures to help women in low paid and informal work, targeting the foreign aid program to those most at risk of experiencing poverty.

“One specific measure is to commit to renewing the Australian Government’s Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (PWSPD) initiative,” said Dr Goringe.

“Long-term investment by the Australian Government to support Pacific women shape their own futures is critical to shift social norms that make women vulnerable to violence, inequality and poverty.

UnitingCare Australia’s Claewen Little said that COVID-19 was a health and economic crisis that had hit women the hardest.

“As a nation we cannot allow this crisis to deepen,” she said.

“We must provide wrap-around support for women in all ranges of circumstances – from frontline health workers through to single parents living below the poverty line. 

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