Thursday 28 Oct 2021 | 08:48 | SYDNEY
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Aid & Development

Australia and Digicel: Hands-off no more?

The Australian government’s decision to finance Telstra’s takeover of the Pacific’s biggest telecommunications provider, Digicel, via a $1.33 billion loan from Export Finance Australia, is the clearest indication yet that competing with China is changing government-firm relations in Australia

Australia should donate surplus vaccine to Indonesia

In the middle of this pandemic, every vaccine is precious. Australia should give its spare locally-made AstraZeneca vaccines to friends in Indonesia. Indonesia has a vacuum of need for vaccines that is predominantly being filled by China, and yet Australia happens to have millions of spare doses

Pacific Step-Up needs a Covid-era reboot

Through thickly vegetated jungle paths, teams of doctors hike for hours to reach Fiji’s most remote villages. Travelling ahead of them, as reported in The Guardian recently, are packhorses carrying ice-chests filled with AstraZeneca vaccines.  Fiji is no

An aid to innovation in PNG’s informal economy

Papua New Guinea’s informal economy is a sleeping giant with massive potential. This untapped sector can be an engine for broad based growth right across the country. Informal economic activities cover legal enterprises that are not registered for taxation and not counted in GDP calculations.

China’s declining Pacific aid presence

In November 2018 Port Moresby was a sea of red in the build up to the APEC leader’s summit. Chinese flags covered every road of Papua New Guinea’s capital while “China aid” was emblazoned – literally – on every traffic light. With China’s President tacking an official two-day state

Whipping the Covid-19 vaccine market into shape

The question of equitable Covid-19 vaccine distribution is likely to be an important topic of discussion at the upcoming G20 Heads of State and Government Summit in Rome during late October. As the cost of a Covid-19 vaccine ranges from US$2–$40, it averages around US$35 to fully vaccinate a

Economic diplomacy: After Kabul, Australia looks to India

Suitcase intelligence Bob Carr recalls in his Diary of a Foreign Minister how a senior Australian intelligence official told him bluntly in 2013 that the war against the Taliban was failing. “We spent a billion dollars in Uruzgan province … We could have achieved the same result if I had been

Economic diplomacy: Burning down the house

Follow the money Forget Extinction Rebellion, carbon border adjustment mechanisms and doctors’ wives in inner city Liberal seats. When Prime Minister Scott Morrison locked onto the existential message in this week’s United Nations climate change report it seems to have been about how foreign

Aiding the Pacific during Covid: An update

More than a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, how much outside financial support is the Pacific receiving and how far does this go in helping the region weather the crisis? This time last year in The Interpreter we took stock of the provision of Covid-19 related external financial assistance to the

The battle for Africa

In his first overseas trip as US President, Joe Biden has flagged he intends to rally European allies in a critical “battle between democracies and autocracies”, and “make it clear to Putin and to China that Europe and the United States are tight”. Biden is not the only one in

Long-ago battle in Solomon Islands keeps claiming lives

Solomon Islands is littered with unexploded bombs, a legacy of the Second World War as the site of one of the fiercest battles between Japan and the United States in the Pacific. Much of the population across the islands still live with unknown quantities of explosive remains left behind from the

Australian aid: How low can it go?

In Australia’s budget last year, delayed until October responding to the unprecedented global health and economic crisis brought on by Covid-19, the Coalition government increased spending on foreign aid from $4 billion to $4.417 billion for the financial year 2020–21. The release this week of

Do Belt and Road projects provide local benefits?

In a virtual meeting with a group of African students in late April, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked a question, implicitly, about China: “Are they bringing their own workers with them, or are they giving jobs to people in the country where they’re making investments?” Blinken

Accountability is the path to better governance in PNG

When we look at progress in decentralisation in Papua New Guinea over the last 20 years – the sole continuous and overriding policy priority of successive governments – many challenges remain to improve downstream service delivery. Programming for “social accountability” shifts the focus

Has China given up on state-owned enterprise reform?

Outside observers have all but given up hope that China will engage in meaningful state-owned enterprise (SOE) reform. There is a pervasive sense that rather than shrinking SOEs, China’s leaders are committed to increasing their prominence within the economy. Foreign perceptions of Chinese SOEs

The Belt and Road, and the pandemic detour

Book review: Daniel Drache, A.T. Kingsmith and Duan Qi, One Road, Many Dreams: China’s Bold Plan to Remake the Global Economy (London, Bloomsbury, 2019). The economic fallout of the pandemic has been global, but not equal. If the often-necessary lockdowns have uniformly resulted in economic

Food security and Covid-19: Recognising women’s leadership

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” – this recognition was a central focus of the 1996 World Food Summit. Today, Covid-

What Biden means for Australia’s aid policy

Joe Biden has taken the mantle of US president at a critical time for international development – amid a resurgence in poverty, increasing geopolitical contestation, rapid technological and environmental change, and of course Covid-19.  The immediate priorities of the new administration will

Pacific development outlook for 2021

Pacific nations have mostly escaped the heavy death toll and hospital bed shortages faced by Western countries battling Covid-19, but the pandemic has dealt a disproportionately severe blow to the region’s economic ambitions. But with the rollout of vaccines and economic recovery in sight in China

Messages from China’s third white paper on foreign aid

In January, the Chinese government released its third white paper on foreign aid, entitled “China’s International Development Cooperation in the New Era”. It is worth taking a closer look at the Chinese-language original, which is more detailed in content than the English-language version

Re-evaluating the military’s role in disaster response

Past global economic downturns have usually had a knock-on effect for military budgets, resulting in lower defence spending. After the global financial crisis led to the contraction of the world GDP in 2009, global military spending only recovered in 2015. With the World Bank predicting that the

Avoiding a “lost decade” in the Pacific

The horror year that has been 2020 is thankfully coming to an end with a dose of welcome optimism, now that vaccines are on the way. But the end is still far from within sight for many of Australia’s Pacific island neighbours. In a new Lowy Institute policy brief, we argue that the Pacific is

Jim Wolfensohn’s knowledge bank

Jim Wolfensohn, an Australian-turned-American who became president of the World Bank in 1995, was a mercurial character. His struggle to tackle the challenges of global development, relying on the weak reed of the World Bank, is a classic story of the heroic individual challenging global forces.&

The UK’s unwelcome foreign aid cut

The recent move to cut billions of pounds from the United Kingdom’s foreign aid budget was long feared by advocates. As result, one minister has flagged her resignation, and others have made threats to cross the floor. The reduction of the UK’s aid spend from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national

Gauge-changing train is no game changer for China

Railways are a natural pillar of overland transport for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, given their large capacity. But there is an obstacle to getting direct services across the borders and into neighbouring countries: different rail gauges. With the exception of North Korea, which uses

China’s problematic lending comes home to roost

On 13 November, the finance ministers and central bankers of the G20 will hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss action to help poor countries struggling to pay debts. A key issue will be getting China, the world’s largest bilateral creditor, to play a more active role. The push by China’s&

A budget of skewed priorities

It’s been a few years since my once-regular annual budget analysis for the foreign affairs, defence and trade portfolio. But of course, this is not just any budget.  This is a big-spending budget to address the most significant national and international crisis of a century. Before the

PNG electrification: Spend on solar to help meet targets

The Maseratis are still collecting dust in sheds on a wharf in Port Moresby, but the sun has started to shine on at least one of the major deals Papua New Guinea gained from hosting the APEC Leaders Summit back in 2018. The PNG Electrification Partnership committed the leaders of Japan, the United

Timor-Leste’s youth leave or get left behind

A crowd of young Timorese standing in front of the Portuguese Embassy in Dili has become a familiar sight in recent years. They are hoping to acquire a Portuguese passport, which represents an opportunity for a shot at a better future in Europe. But why are these young people so eager to leave their

Evaluating aid in the Pacific

Each year, more than US $2 billion of foreign aid is invested in the Pacific Islands region, equivalent to roughly 8% of the region’s GDP. This aid comes in the form of thousands of projects from more than 60 donors. Information about these projects is often messy and opaque, with public

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