We need trade, not aid
BY GORETHY KENNETH
PAPUA New Guinea is pushing Australia to make dramatic changes to its foreign aid to the country.
At the 25th Papua New Guinea-Australia Ministerial Forum in Madang the PNG Government sent signals that by 2020, Australian aid, which is worth more than A$500 million, should be channelled through the PNG budget system.
PNG is the biggest recipient with more than 60 per cent of Australia’s total assistance package for foreign countries.
Currently, Australian aid targets specific programs outside PNG’s development budget and the government has complained about this, saying it does not conform with its development priorities.
National Planning Minister Charles Abel said yesterday that there was now a need to continue to evolve the relationship to one based on a mutually beneficial trading and investment partnership.
Mr Abel said that as the planning minister and head of the aid program, he requested that a significant trade and investment package be included and that all programs continued to be more focused and visible with fewer programs and less focus on technical assistance.
“We want trade not aid. We just want them to come in and support the PNG Government system…they are channelling their aid, which is recognised in our budget, but it’s not really passing through our budget,” he said.
“We want you to continue the work, you helping us, but you have to make it more strategic and more visible and thicker, not thinly spread everywhere.
“All we are saying is we have established our government plans, we have our targets and we want you to come in and work through our plans.”
Mr Abel said that aid used to be budget support in the 1990s, but Australia moved away from that because there were issues they were not comfortable with.
He said that based on the Medium Term Development Plan (MTDP) 2 and the 2015 PNG Development Cooperation Policy, the PNG Government’s desire is to move the aid program to budget support by 2020.
“The aid can be program-based but must come through PNG’s systems,” he said.
Successive MTDPs promote critical development indicators that the PNG Government and its development partners, like the Government of Australia, commit to addressing in a comprehensive, robust and dynamic manner.
Mr Abel said it is important to have a structured approach to aid co-ordination, and the Australian Government and other development partners must recognise and subscribe to the development aspirations of the Government and people.