Micah CEO condemns aid cuts to Asia
Micah Australia CEO Tim Costello has accused the federal government of backing down from its responsibilities in Southeast Asia, after revelations of cuts to Australia’s aid budget.
“I’ve said from the start the Pacific Step Up should not come at the cost of stepping down elsewhere in the world but sadly, it already has,” Rev. Costello said.
Answering questions from Labor in Senate Estimates, the Morrison Liberal Government has revealed that Aid has been cut to Southeast Asian countries by 42 per cent. The Pacific, on the other hand, has had an aid boost.
The government cut aid in Cambodia by 33 percent, Laos by 41 percent, and The Philippines by 44 percent.
Rev. Costello said it did not make sense to cut funding to Southeast Asia from both a humanitarian and security sense.
“Australia needs strong trading partners, reliable allies and close relationships in our immediate region.
“Aid plays an important role in creating soft power and we are now seeing the Defence and security sector in Australia speak up and say, ‘We have lost influence, we have lost soft power’.
“I absolutely support the Pacific Step Up, Micah has been meeting with the Prime Minister and Pacific Church leaders about that, but neglecting our humanitarian responsibilities elsewhere in the world is neither the right thing nor the smart thing to do.
“Like many other Australians, I’ve been to these countries now experiencing big cuts – Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam – and while development is coming to a select few in the big cities and tourist hubs, poverty is still rife and a daily part of many lives.”
Rev. Costello said the Australian government should rebuild the aid budget.
“The Pacific Step Up should not be a burden carried squarely on the shoulders of an already diminished aid budget.
“Yes, bushfire and drought are realities we must face in our nation, but other nations like the UK and Scandanavia have kept the promise to world’s poor of 0.7 percent of GNI – our aid budget is at we are 0.21 percent and we have awarded ourselves a leave pass.”
The federal government previously announced a review of Australia’s aid budget, with the Uniting Church’s aid organisation UnitingWorld making a submission. Micah Australia has welcomed the review.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman told The Australian that Australia was “delivering an aid program that is affordable and effective.”
“The government has reprioritised our aid program to support the Pacific step-up. Our aid to the Pacific will increase to a record $1.4bn in 2019-20, recognising our enduring ties with our nearest neighbours. Our development engagement with Southeast Asia, which includes a number of fast-growing emerging economies, reflects the evolving needs of countries in the region.”