Australia could become ‘indebted to China’ says host
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Speaking to Sky News Australia Herald Sun Columnist Caleb Bond warned that if Australia’s $304.7million aid package for countries in the Pacific, such as Papua New Guinea, which was put in place to deal with pandemic related issues is not renewed next year when it is due to expire, China could sneak in the back door and take control.
It comes as foreign aid experts in Australia have warned decades of development gains and influence built up in the Pacific could count for nothing unless the aid budget is boosted.
But Mr Bond warned Australia must now be incredibly careful to not cut too much, following news that China has begun pumping aid into Covid ravaged Pacific island countries such as Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea.
He said: “I must say if we are talking specifically about welfare or foreign aid that has been given to the Pacific nations.
“We have of course seen a rise in the money that China is investing in the Pacific.”
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Mr Bond noted how he is concerned that if Australia pulled out of the Pacific entirely, China’s influence could become unstoppable.
He warned that such a situation would come about as poor, less developed nations would become “completely indebted to China” through their aid diplomacy.
He stressed this “would ultimately be worse” for Australia and also spell storm clouds for the “west in general”.
As a result, foreign aid experts in Australia are now calling on the Australian government to lock in extra funding for next year to ensure the Aussies maintain influence in the region.
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The Coalition government in Australia has made sweeping cuts to this budget during its time in power.
Amid the growing influence of China in the region, the chief executive of Australia’s Council For International Development, Marc Purcell told the Sydney Morning Herald: “It will not be lost on the Australian government that this is also a competitive space.”
His comments follow 2020 estimates from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which suggested aid from China to around 150 countries increased to a massive $4.8billion.
China however uses a system of loans for its aid, which experts fear will wreak havoc in the Pacific region, as it has done across Africa where it has bought considerable influence and infrastructure, if allowed free rein.
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While Australian National University economist Stephen Howes said it made no sense to be cutting foreign aid to the Pacific.
He told the Syndey Morning Herald: “Aid cuts should be avoided … the temporary and targeted measures could be extended but it would be better for the government to admit that after years of cuts…
“Now is the time to rebuild the aid program. We are already one of the world’s least-generous aid donors.”
Recent polling by YouGov shows 57 percent of Australians support funding foreign aid to developing countries, compared to 52 percent in 2019. 1027 took part in the poll.
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