The federal budget on Tuesday confirmed a mid-year review decision to reduce the aid program by an unprecedented $1 billion to $4 billion in 2015-16. While aid to Pacific islands faced only tiny tweaks in the budget, east Asian countries fared badly with Vietnam, Burma, Laos and the Philippines facing 40 per cent cuts.
On the same day a second earthquake ravaged Nepal, Australia coincidentally cut foreign aid to the Himalayan nation.
Non-disaster relief aid for Nepal will be cut from $33.9 million to $26.8 million at the same time a close neighbour also hit by natural disaster in 2015 gains an extra $500,000.
Vanuatu will receive $60.9 million in overall aid.
The federal budget on Tuesday confirmed a mid-year review decision to reduce the aid program by an unprecedented $1 billion to $4 billion in 2015-16.
Aid to Indonesia – the biggest beneficiary of Australia’s largesse – will be cut by 40 per cent from $605.3 million to $366.4 million.
But Treasurer Joe Hockey insists Indonesia has not been singled out for special attention in the wake of Jakarta’s decision to execute Bali Nine drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in April.
‘Not at all,’ he told reporters ahead of his speech to parliament.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had gone through a proper process in deciding which nations would be supported, taking into account their economic growth, the needs of the region and whether countries were aid donors themselves.
The executions fuelled speculation that aid to Indonesia could be targeted as a possible retaliatory measure.
However, most experts were predicting Indonesia would get less assistance anyway, even before the Australian pair faced the firing squad.
Ms Bishop has always insisted the Asia-Pacific region should be Australia’s aid priority.
While aid to Pacific islands faced only tiny tweaks in the budget, east Asian countries fared badly with Vietnam, Burma, Laos and the Philippines facing 40 per cent cuts.
But Cambodia, which is about to resettle refugees on behalf of Australia, and East Timor’s aid budget were left largely unscathed.
Papua New Guinea, which hosts the Manus Island immigration detention centre, will receive five per cent less in aid but now becomes Australia’s top aid recipient pocketing $553.6 million next financial year.
Aid to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh will be cut by 40 per cent but programs in Africa are almost wiped out with a 70 per cent cut.
Funding to non-government organisations will be slashed from $203.9 million to $176 million slightly less than the 20 per cent cut many were anticipating.
World Vision chief Tim Costello said the worst fears of aid groups had been confirmed.
‘If this budget is a test of fairness, it totally fails the poorest in the world,’ he told AAP.
Care Australia’s chief executive Julia Newton-Howes said the cuts would leave Australia’s international reputation in tatters.
Australia’s aid budget is set to plummet to 0.22 per cent of national income by 2016-17 well below the United Nation’s push for countries to donate 0.7 per cent.