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Papua New Guinea foreign Minister Rimbink Pato has responded to reports of the Turnbull government placing key elements of Australia’s $541 million (US$409 million)-a-year aid programme in Papua New Guinea on “amber” alert.
Pato said progress had fallen short of expectations and “restorative action” was required.
He said Papua New Guinea had no complaints about Australia’s “extremely generous” support and that those involved in the programme, from cabinet ministers to those working on the Australian-funded projects, were “very impressed by its professionalism and accountability.”
As China ramps up its support for the region, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s latest aid programme performance report for PNG warned that investments under the $113m-a-year governance programme and $161m (US$121 million)-a-year human development programme were failing to meet their objectives.
The programmes, delivered by multinational aid contracting companies, have been placed under close performance monitoring in the traffic light-rating system, while support for economic growth had been rated green.
Pato said PNG had no complaints about Australia’s “extremely generous” support.
His comments followed research suggesting PNG elites saw Australian aid as “paternalistic” and overly bureaucratic compared with what they say was “more flexible” and “more effective” support from China.
In interviews with senior PNG figures, Deakin and Sydney University researchers were told Australia’s influence in PNG had ‘diminished considerably’ amid growing Chinese investment in the region under its Belt and Road Initiative. They heard concerns that Australian aid money “goes back to Australia” in expatriate wages and fees, and despite genuine affection towards Australia, “there is animosity and anger about being lectured to.”
He said he rejected claims Australian aid officials lectured PNG on the way aid money should be spent. “Quite the contrary. They consult us on our needs and tailor their programmes accordingly.
‘‘Spending is done -according to agreements, which we discuss together,” he said.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also rejected to the study’s findings.
“Australia is Papua New Guinea’s largest and longest-standing development partner,” she said.
“Aid projects are identified in consultation with the PNG government and such criticism is unwarranted.’’
Pato said PNG saw Chinese aid “in a very positive light”, declaring China had “resumed its status as a great global nation.’’
“Now that it is able to assist others, it is doing so as a response to prosperity that must be admired by all,” he said.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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