Balancing the Books on the Backs of the Poor

Australian Aid Policy

Key Points

  • This year Australia will provide less than 0.25% of GNI in aid, which is around one third of its international commitment to reach 0.7% of GNI by 2015.
  • Successive Australian Governments have cut a total of almost $20 billion from the aid budget in recent years, after abandoning a domestic commitment to give 0.5% of GNI in aid by 2015.
  • As a result of these aid cuts, Australia provides around 1/5 as much aid as the United Kingdom (UK) despite Australia being in a much stronger economic position.


Australia has fallen spectacularly short of its international commitment to provide 0.7% of GNI in aid by 2015. This would have equated to providing less than 3% of the Government’s budget in aid, however Australia only provides around 1% (see here).

Successive Australian Governments have cut the aid budget six times in three years, which was justified as necessary to help with balancing the government’s books. This had led to an abandoning of a bipartisan agreement to increase the aid budget to reach 0.5% of GNI by 2015. Therefore while global aid flows are increasing, Australian aid is shrinking (see here). The chart below shows how this year, Australia’s aid budget will shrink to around one-third of its international commitment and less than half of its domestic commitment.


Australia’s lack of aid generosity compares unfavourably to many other aid donors, especially the United Kingdom. In the same week as the UK parliament passed a law to provide 0.7% of GNI in aid, the Australian Prime Minister described Australia’s vicious aid cuts as ‘modest’. This is despite Australia being in a significantly better economic position than the UK, as can be seen in the table below. Australia has an income per person more than 50% higher than the UK and Australia has only around 20% the level of government debt, yet it provides only 1/5 the level of aid.


While the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, famously said the UK would not ‘balance the books on the backs of the poor’, it appears Australia is trying to do just that.


World Bank 2015 <>

IMF 2015 <>

OECD 2015 <>

What does the G20 have to do with the World’s Poor?

Global Development

This week World Leaders are meeting in Brisbane, Australia for the 2014 G20 Summit. To find out more about what this has to do with the World’s Poor, check out the infographic below and this blog.


Millennium Development Goals Scorecard

Global Development

This month world leaders are set to discuss the next Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but it is also important to reflect on progress towards the current goals. The MDGs expire in less than 500 days and it is likely that more than half of the goals will not be met. The table below provides a simplified ‘traffic light’ breakdown of how the world has performed (green meaning the goal has been met, orange meaning some sub-goals have been met and red highlighting significant progress is still required).

MDG Scorecard Table

While there is much to celebrate in terms of the progress that has been made towards the MDGs, it is important not to lose track of just how much still needs to be done. For example, there has been limited progress towards Goal 5: Improving Maternal Health. The chance of a women dying during childbirth has fallen from 430 per 100,000 live births in 1990, to 230 per 100,000 live births in 2013. However, this is still far from the goal to reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters by 2015 (down to 108 per 100,000 live births). World leaders must not ignore the MDGs that are still to be met, such as improving maternal health, when planning for the future.

To find out more about progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, check out the 2014 Report, available here.

The Next Millennium Development Goals?

Global Development

One year ago, a panel of world leaders (including David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister) released a report about the next Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The purpose of the report was to suggest goals to be achieved by 2030, which can follow on from the MDGs (due to expire in 2015). This September these goals will be voted upon by world leaders and are shown below:

The Next MDGs?

Among policy makers these goals have grown in popularity, however civil society groups are yet to heavily promote them. The exception to this is the first goal, which is to End Poverty by 2030. Organizations such as the Global Poverty Project have mobilized large numbers of people in support of this goal.

Please consider sharing these goals with your friends and colleagues. If you want them to be changed, contact your local politicians and join civil society groups that are trying to influence them. After all, decisions about what the world should be aiming for by 2030 are far too important to be left to policy makers alone.

Read the full report here: