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Rich aid business

The Editor,

As an Australian aid worker and having witnessed first hand

the effects of aid projects on developing countries, I am concerned at the

approach Aus Aid is now taking.

At a recent Aus Aid seminar "Aid

Business, Good Business", Mr Gordon Bilney, the Minister for Development

Co-Operation, stated that the bottom line for aid is to expand export

opportunities for Australian goods and services. For every $1 in aid it is

expected that $5 is returned to Australia.

The Asian Development Bank

representative supported this by saying that the most effective approach to

reducing poverty is economic development.

This approach invests aid in to

those who already own factories and industries or who hold positions of power,

often in major cities. The theory is that this investment in the wealthy class

will result in wealth trickling down to the poor. Research results have found

that in fact this "trickle down" of benefits rarely occurs and is more likely to

prove detrimental to the poor. In fact the gap between the wealthy and the poor

who don't have the means to invest in or benefit from the economic growth,

widens.

In response to these findings, a new approach to development is

emerging. The indicators are no longer economic development but improvements in

literacy, health, food security and family planning.

So who really

benefits from Australian aid? This seminar clearly indicated that Australian aid

is aimed at aiding Australians.

The question for Australians is whether

it is ethical to promote Australian trade at the expense of the poor in

developing countries.

- Ann Hickey, Former Cambodian aid worker,

Turramurra, Australia

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