"We are encouraged to see the global poor prioritised in this budget, with a sizable increase in aid and development funding," said Micah Challenge National Coordinator, Mr. John Beckett. "The money allocated to poverty alleviation has the potential to transform the lives of some of our poorest brothers and sisters overseas."
The Government has used new international accounting standards to calculate Gross National Income (GNI), which should lead to a more than doubling of the aid budget between now and 2015. This year's $530 million increase lifts aid from $3.82 billion in 2009/10 to $4.35 billion in 2010/11, which means the Government is on track to fulfil its aid commitment to reaching 0.5% GNI by 2015.
"The government's renewed commitment to reaching their 0.5% election commitment is an important step. What we need now is a timetabled plan for reaching the internationally agreed target of 0.7% GNI from both the Government and the Coalition," said Mr. Beckett. "We continue to lag behind many other developed countries on this issue".
"Micah Challenge calls the Australian Government to show strong leadership and to position Australia as a Samaritan nation," he said. "Jesus clearly teaches us to love our neighbour. In Australia, some of our closest Global neighbours are also some of the world's poorest people".
"We need to remember that the figures announced in this Federal Budget represent saved lives for real people in extreme poverty, people who need God's hope and justice.
Our supporters have been campaigning tirelessly for Australia to do its fair share to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. It is encouraging to see their hard work pay off. Grass-roots advocacy really can make a difference for the poor."
Micah Challenge is concerned that, despite the extra funds committed, overall spending on health aid has not increased. Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which focus on improving the lives of mothers and children globally, are well behind schedule.
"The rhetoric from the government that child and maternal health are a priority has not been supported by action in the allocation of new funds. In fact, funding to health has dropped from 16% of the aid budget last year to only 14% this year," said Mr. Beckett.
Another disappointing aspect of this budget is the absence of any immediate funding for climate change adaptation for the poor. However, the Government has promised future funding of approximately $350 million in the financial years 2011/12 and 2012/13 to assist developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change.
"This is a pressing justice issue. Our neighbours in the Asia Pacific are already feeling the impacts of climate change," said Mr. Beckett.
Micah Challenge will continue to hold the Government to account regarding Australia's treatment of the poor. Micah Challenge supporters will raise these issues during face-to-face lobbying meetings as part of the Voices for Justice gathering, 19-22 June 2010. For more information and to register for Voices for Justice, visit www.micahchallenge.org.au/voices-justice .
Micah Challenge is a global movement of Christians which aims to deepen engagement with the poor by integrating social justice as an essential aspect of faith. We want to encourage the leaders of all nations to fulfil their commitments to the Millennium Development Goals, to halve absolute poverty by 2015. We believe that we have made a promise to the poor and are capable of upholding our commitment. If every Christian chooses to act with justice and kindness, walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8), imagine the impact we can have.