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Overseas aid budget boost

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Overseas Aid Budget: Boost

Australia's international development assistance funding will be increased by one percent in real terms to $1313.9M in 1991/92.

The Minister for Trade and Overseas Development, Neal Blewett, said that despite continuing tight fiscal discipline, the Government would maintain the aid budget ratio of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Gross National Product (GNP) at

0.35 percent — about the average for OECD countries.

Dr Blewett said the budget increase would allow for a number of key initiatives.

"The development co-operation program for 1990-91 addresses global environment issues, emergency relief needs, assists Australian exporters and provides increased support for Australian non-government organisations," he said.

Funding for the Government's Environment Assistance Program, EAP, for developing countries would be increased to $80M over the next four years.

"Through the EAP, Australia will play a leading role in developing a co-ordinated international response to the growing environmental problems facing the world and the implementation of ecologically sustainable development," Dr Blewett said.

Australia would join the World Bank's Global Environment Facility, provide funds for the Montreal Protocol to help protect the ozone layer and support initiatives to protect tropical forests, develop new population planning programs and provide assistance for environment and conservation management

in our region.

Dr Blewett said that in recognition of their important role in the developing world, Australian Non-Government Organisations, NGOs, would co-operate with AIDAB in implementing around $60M of activities through the official Australian aid program. Direct funding would be increased by 10 percent to $17M.

Australia's Development Import Finance Facility (DIFF) would be increased by $9M to $93M to assist Australian firms to win development contracts in the face of stiff competition from foreign firms supported by their governments.

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Dr Blewett said that 1990/91 had been an exceptional year for natural and other disasters, causing the Government to increase assistance by $7M over budgeted levels.

"Conscious of the growing refugee problems throughout the world and the prospect of massive famine in the Horn of Africa, the Government has decided to maintain emergency and relief funding at last year's higher level of $64M," he said.

Funding for the .Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) would be increased to $18.9 million and funding for other intenrational agricultural research activities would rise to $7.4 million.

"This reflects the importance of agricultural research in facilitating significant advancements in food production, forage research, pest and disease control," he said.

Dr Blewett said that $1.2M would be provided to assist with the development of economic planning capacity in the anti-apartheid community of South Africa.

This assistance would be additional to the on-going $110M three-year program for all Southern African countries.

Another small but important initiative was a $270,000 contribution to an intra-ocular lens factory being established by Professor Fred Hollows in Eritrea.

"Australia's development co-operation program will continue to respond to the growing challenge of poverty.

"Environment screening of aid activities will help ensure that ecologically sustainable activities are supported through the program.

"Other initiatives in areas such as health, women-in-development and population will be on-going.

"The level of development assistance in our immediate Asia/Pacific region will be maintained, and we will continue to assist other countries in South Asia, Africa and the Indian Ocean.

"We will also play our part as a good international citizen through our support of the international development banks, the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other international organisations," Dr Blewett said.

Canberra: August 20 1991