Pacific Solution no help to poor, Caritas director says

Commenting on claims that up to a third of Australia's official overseas assistance did not go directly to fighting poverty, Caritas CEO Jack de Groot says that the public would not regard programs such as the Pacific Solution as alleviating poverty.

Radio Australia reports that the Australian Government has defended itself against suggestions that its foreign aid budget has been artificially inflated.

A new report by the group Aidwatch has found that a third of Australia's aid programme does not directly benefit the fight against poverty in target countries.

This includes more than $600 million which was paid to a Federal government agency to write off an Iraqi debt incurred in the early 1990s.

But Mr de Groot told Radio Australia that while debt relief might be a help, taxpayers expect projects to provide direct measures for the poor.

The Parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs, Greg Hunt, says the people criticising the programme are the same ones who have been calling for debt relief:

"There's a huge in-country benefit.

"All up western countries have wiped off about $AU22 billion worth of debt to Iraq.

"If you took that at 8 per cent of repayments a year, plus some repayment on capital, that's some $2 to $3 billion in money that's available to the the Iraqi government."

Non-government aid agencies also said the Federal Government should not be counting money spent on the Pacific solution as part of the aid budget.

Aidwatch says some of the aid programs do not directly alleviate poverty.

They include money spent on detaining illegal immigrants on Nauru and Manus island.

The Pacific Solution was introduced in 2001 when the Australian Government refused to allow asylum seekers into the country and asked countries in the Pacific to receive them instead.

Australian government defends foreign aid budget (Radio Australia, 28/5/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Australia

Caritas welcomes budget aid increase (CathNews, 11/5/07)
Research criticises mutual obligation 'franchise' (CathNews, 15/3/06)

Where did $100m go? Not to the Nauruans (Brisbane Times, 27/5/07)

29 May 2007