Mind the (aid) gap

In case you’ve been staying in a cave, or had the iPod on full blast, you’d have noticed that there’s a Federal election campaign going on in Australia at the moment.

In typical, LCD style, the campaign from both parties will likely focus on issues such as ‘queue jumpers’ that cut in on non-existent queues, and Orwellian slogans like Moving Forward and Standing Up.

Election campaigns are really about creating a simple message and following the old marketing adage – talk about what you’re going to say, then say it, then say it again. While some of the key future issues for Australia and indeed the world we live in remain ignored – for example, putting a price on carbon. Like climate change, many important issues are just too difficult for our politicians to convince ‘the electorate’ that we need to deal with these key issues, and that acting in some of these areas don’t necessarily need to result in a ‘great big new tax’.

Foreign aid is one of them. But I wanted to write a bit about it. Foreign aid has many connotations, but generally regarded as being too much or too little, or as wasted on corrupt governments, too small to make any real difference.

However, both the quantity and quality of aid have been poorly implemented. In terms of the way our aid dollars are spent, Crikey recently ‘exposed’ the consultancy gravy trains associated with spending our foreign aid dollars in the countries that need it most. So we end up paying Australian-based consultancies to tell developing nations what they need to become like us – rather than assisting them to develop into the places that their people would like their country to become.

In 1970, the world’s rich countries agreed to give 0.7% of their gross national income as official international development aid, annually. Since that time, Australia has ranked relatively highly in terms of the overall amount of aid that we give, but have been well below the 0.7% of GNI target, and even lower than average % GNI donated by developed nations.

So I’m thinking its probably time for the individual action path – starting this year, I’m going to donate 0.7% of my annual income to developing nations – through Oxfam and Kiva. I especially like Kiva, a microlending service in developing countries for communities – more a hand up, rather than hand out, and you can ‘re-invest’ your donation over many people. I’d encourage you to do the same – even if you top up of our nation’s short fall (0.34% GNI) would equate to 0.36% of your annual income. Not much, but sure could make a difference.

That’s enough for now – back to Le Tour….

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