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The Forum > Article Comments > Effective aid more than extra dollars > Comments

Effective aid more than extra dollars : Comments

By Jamie Isbister, published 19/6/2007

If we are fair dinkum about alleviating poverty we should establish an independent government department to deliver our aid.

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I concur that there is a need for better aid. Aid needs to provide long term and sustainable improvements in the lives of the poor. However, the Australian Government seems to have a problem with constructive criticism and retaliates against any organization that questions their delivery of aid.

Much aid is provided in Australian goods and services when in fact it is most likely far cheaper if supplied locally and better for the local community. A recent report by Aid Watch entitled “Fighting Poverty or Fantasy Figures: The Reality of Australian Aid” found that about one-third of Australia’s aid program budget does not benefit aid alleviation.
The aid budget figures are inflated by Australia’s inclusion of the costs of its controversial refugee incarceration program, the cancelling of the Iraqi debt which was mostly accrued by the Australian Wheat Board fiasco and paying for foreign-students to study in Australia then relocate here leaving their country no better off. Australia’s aid appears to be used to focus on our own agenda – providing better strategic, economic and security outcomes for Australia.

Australia has mounted missions to attract foreign trained doctors to our country simply because we didn’t train enough in this country. Now 21% of Australian doctors are overseas trained. Many of these doctors come from developing countries and the drain of these trained at great expense by developing countries then benefit Australia because it hase not had to outlay for training. This adds to the burden of global poverty in many developing countries. 604 out of 871 Doctors trained in Ghana between 1993 and 2002 now work overseas. In Australia, most of our diseases are caused by our lifestyle, in Ghana there disease are mostly easily preventable but without medical improvements and deprived of doctors by the pull of rich western nations.

There are too few organisations like TEAR Australia who don’t focus on one method to address all causes of poverty but help to empower local communities to address their own problems and bring about sustainable and long term change in the lives of the poor must be encouraged.
Posted by Stanners, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 10:08:56 AM
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Stanners has written words I can't disagree with.

My only real comment is that the best chance of beating poverty in this country is to win lotto as Howard ain't gonna give the poor a cracker. He even claims 40% of Australians pay no tax. He seems to forget we all pay tax through the GST.

I digress, sorry.

To me it is more likely that people like Bill Gates, Bono and Bill Clinton, yes, and even George Bush SENIOR, do more than Oz or the USA in trying to relieve poverty etc.

Our country's efforts are cheapskate and probably don't equal the amount Howard and the State Premiers spend on advertising things they have never succeeded in doing but try to convince us that they have. Convoluted but I hope you get my drift.
Posted by pegasus, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 1:35:05 PM
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Could Jamie please advise precisely how much money Caritas has spent( especially from the Project Compassion incomes of 2006 and 2007) in Port Moresby (as opposed to PNG as a whole)on HIV/AIDS programs?.

Has any money been given to that much loved Pt Moresby figure, the Franciscan, Fr Jude, to help him with the Bethany project at 16 Mile, to which our own organisation also helped in establishing the San Michel hospice there...the only one of its kind in PNG.Is it receiving any recurrent funding? If not, why?

Is Caritas expending any money to help the poverty stricken HIV patients in the Pt Moresby Hopspital...people Fr Jude and the Friends Foundation also seek to support....?If not, why?

We have helped him in these programs..helping him to feed those desperate people.

How much is Caritas helping to fund Fr Jude's various awareness programs?If it isn't, why not?

Costs are always a contentious matter that pops up whenever any NGO is under scruting....but it is even more difficult these days for donors to know what actual overheads are. Once, this item was a single item...but now it has been given numerous, etc etc...that dilutes the figure significantly. Some CEO's are also shy about revealing their annual salaries and perks. I'm not...mine's zero. We have no paid staff now...down from once a paid staff of 9...and we get no govt or Catholic church funding althought we are a Catholic church agency of some 20 years standing within the Melbourne archdiocese....which has reduced its response here to just a part-time chaplaincy service at a secret address in East Melbourne and an unpublicised phone number.

But....still, a little can do a lot. We invite readers to visit our website at Once there, click on the Jumpers hyperlink and study our global outreach....then see what we are doing in rural Malawi, Africa. We also have a page devoted to PNG...hence our interest in what Caritas is doing in Pt Moresby.

Brian Haill
The Australian AIDS Fund Inc
Posted by Sydney, Wednesday, 20 June 2007 11:39:09 AM
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One of the biggest problems with all aid organisations and the relief that they are trying to supply is that they lack adequate means of communication - and I do not mean fancy mobile phones, computers etc etc but basic communication such as the capacity to "talk" to one another, roads to deliver goods and the means to transport them there as well as a reduction in corruption to see that the aid gets to those who need it.
A lot of aid money simply gets wasted - as does charity money in this country...some small groups get as little as 18c in the dollar of the money donated to them. The rest goes on administration, paying people to collect, advertising etc.
We need a radical rethink nationally and internationally on the way aid is provided but too many people are busy lining their own pockets for this to happen.
Posted by Communicat, Saturday, 23 June 2007 9:10:00 AM
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An interesting suggestion in your article James, to change AusAID's role from a junior department to a separate, independent government organisation. I think this deserves serious consideration as a means to improve the overall quality of how we deliver Australia's aid.

The current structure has a number of key limitations, including:
i) it ties aid provision very tightly to political imperatives. For example the first paragraph of the Minister's report to Parliament on our aid expenditure clearly identifies that the primary filter for our aid is on furthering Australia's national interest. The old focus on poverty allievation was a central theme for the aid program, whereas now there is no real core focus, other than "furthering Australia's national interest".
ii) it ties aid to political cycles. My experience over the last 10 years with AusAID expenditure is that there are more short-term investments, and less programs that really focus on assisting with long-term intractable problems. This is in part a result of needing to provide good news stories on new initiatives for the government each electoral cycle.
iii) AusAID functions just as it is designed to do - i.e. as a large bureaucracy in Canberra, not as an efficient aid delivery agency. Despite the recent changes announced in last years White Paper AusAID conducts almost no research, and has very little in-house practical experience with aid projects, most staffers are contract managers with Canberra-based experience.

I think your suggestion should be expanded into a follow-up piece to provide some practial solutions of how such a change might work, and how it could be structured. Thanks.
Posted by Solutions, Monday, 25 June 2007 1:58:59 PM
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