Australia cuts its foreign aid to lowest in its history

Australia’s foreign aid spending is set to become the least generous of any time in its history, with new budget cuts of almost $4 billion during four years that aid organizations have slammed as “lazy” and “incompetent”.

Under the cuts, Australia will drop from being the 13th most generous nation to the 20th, out of 28 of the world’s wealthiest countries.

Treasurer Joe Hockey acknowledged aid was the hardest hit in the mid-year fiscal budget, which was being used to “offset” defense and national security commitments of $1.3 billion.

Aid agencies said the budget cuts had made Australia one of the world’s stingiest aid donors.

World Vision chief executive Tim Costello  said it was the worst cut he had seen. “I’m devastated,” he said. “Aid spending is the most moral spending that the government can do, so to cut this is morally wrong. …This is just cruel and harsh.” Mr Costello said a raft of lifesaving programs, including efforts to combat human trafficking, will probably be affected by the budget cuts.

Unicef said the latest reductions meant Australia had become “among the world’s most tight-fisted donors” despite being the fourth-wealthiest member of the OECD with the sixth-lowest debt.

Save the Children chief executive Paul Ronalds said children in poor communities were the innocent victims of Mr Hockey’s inability to get his budget savings measures through the Senate. “Joe Hockey is effectively Robin Hood in reverse, robbing aid that has been committed to the poorest people in the world and using it to try and get his budget balanced,” Mr Ronalds said. “Together with the aid slashed from the May budget, this brings Australian aid down to the lowest it’s ever been comparatively. It’s simply un-Australian.”

Australian Council for International Development executive director Mark Purcell said the cuts will hurt “millions” of vulnerable people throughout the world. “We see it as wrecking ball by the government.”

Under the cuts, for every $100 Australia will give 21¢ to aid projects by 2017-18. It is currently 32¢ in every $100.

[The Age]

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