Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Actual education or phantom aid?

Earlier this month, I blogged about the pitiful level of Foreign Aid in the latest budget. I noted that the Australian government gives only .34% GNI as Foreign Aid, despite making international commitments to increase this to .7% GNI.

Investigative journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald have revealed that even this low level of aid is fudged. In a series of articles, Phantom Aid, they reveal that more than $600 million of Australia's foreign aid over the past two years never went overseas but was swallowed up in the coffers of a small Federal Government agency in Pitt Street, Sydney.

Examples of questionable aid identified by the Herald include:

  • A $27,758 payment AusAID made to the Australian law firm Sparke Helmore for legal assistance during the Cole inquiry into legal breaches of the UN oil-for-food program has been counted as foreign aid.
  • Another $81,993 described as foreign aid to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2004 was an Immigration Department assistance package for temporary protection visa holders in Australia.
  • Half a million dollars of last financial year's $23.4 million in aid for Nauru was to be spent on co-ordinating aid, while $1.3 million went on "logistics", providing housing, transport and other costs for Australian officials.
The following graph shows how countries rank on on their Commitment to Development.

The amount Australia contributes in Aid (the dark blue bit of each bar) is tiny, but this new information uncovered by the Herald, suggests that Australian Foreign Aid is even smaller, because the figures have been padded. The Government says that it is following the rules about what can be counted. I guess they are proud of being so mean-spirited.

One of the great things about the School of St Jude is that there is no hint of mean-spiritedness about it. The School is founded on generosity and care for others. It aims to provide actual education for bright children from the poorest families in one of the world's poorest countries. These children will benefit from the bricks and mortar school that is being built and run with your real help.

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