Danielle Romanes writes:

Hugh White argues that 'slowing the growth of aid would be no bad thing.'

'The most immediate reason is that it is so hard to avoid wasting a lot of money when the amounts available are growing so fast. This is no discredit to AusAID, which is one of the world's better aid agencies. Their work is not just about signing cheques: they have to work with other countries and local communities to develop cost-effective projects that deliver real results. That takes a long time, so the faster money has to be spent, the more will be wasted. That does nothing to help the needy.'

Hugh's immediate reasoning is flawed here, because there is no onus on AusAID to be the sole deliverer of Australian aid. Already it partners with a range of established and respected international organisations to deliver aid in areas where it lacks capacity, reach or expertise. Thus in 2009-10, $466 million of its budget was delivered by the World Bank, $131.6 million by the Asian Development Bank, $154 million by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, the Education for All Fast Track Initiative, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. At present over 30% of Australian aid is delivered through partner organisations such as these, so — counter to Hugh's suggestion — quite a large amount of AusAID's work is actually signing cheques.

AusAID may immediately lack the capacity to deliver an augmented aid budget, but I see no reason why its partner organisations would not be willing and able to lend a hand for a few years. With aid generosity on a sharp decline, many of these organisations (and the Global Fund in particular) will be experiencing a surplus of capacity that AusAID is increasingly well-placed to meet. Think of it as charitable outsourcing: convenient, effective, and lifesaving.