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Well targeted aid could get where the big guys don’t

Chips Mackellar Cabbage
Chips Mackellar as a young kiap, and his pet pig, Cabbage, who features in Chips' book of short stories, Sivarai

CHIPS MACKELLAR

Aid from wealthier countries to poorer countries takes many forms and has many different motives, some of them philanthropic. But an area of assistance from Australia to Papua New Guinea – much overlooked and rarely complimented by officials from either country – is that provided by citizens to citizens. Many of our readers, and PNG Attitude itself, has been involved a large number of projects of this kind. Now with China engaging in what it may term ‘aid’ – but which in fact consists largely of loans repayable in some way – and Australia anxious, author and ex-kiap Chips Mackellar takes a look at the scene.

TOOWOOMBA - It is unlikely that Australia could ever match the so-called ‘aid’ which China is giving Papua New Guinea.

Massive buildings, six-lane highways and roads to nowhere are very impressive, but they are of no use to the bulk of the neglected population in regional and remote PNG.

On the other hand, we can easily compete against the Chinese with proper aid delivered to the people who need it.

Out there in remote parts of PNG there are hospitals with no medicines, schools with no books and public buildings with no maintenance.

Some of these places, for example, those along the Papuan coast, although remote from Port Moresby, are easily accessible by boat from Cairns or Townsville.

From these Australian cities could easily be supplied the vital needs of communities along the Fly River, coastal Papua and the Milne Bay islands.

In this context, a box of medicines for each hospital, a box of stationery for each school and so on would considerably improve living conditions in these remote parts of PNG that have been forgotten by their own government.

Of course to function effectively, this supply system would need to bypass the corrupt and venal officialdom of Port Moresby. Easily done, like those cruise ships which bypass Moresby and visit the remote Milne Bay islands direct.

Already there are a few former PNG expatriates and a few Australian charities which supply necessities to remote parts of PNG. All that is needed is an Australian quango which could help with funding and logistics.

From simple beginnings this system could spread across PNG, delivering proper aid where it is needed and restoring the good relations between Papua New Guineans and Australians, just like it was when we were there so long ago.

The cost would be a lot less than if we tried to compete against the Chinese.

Comments

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Paul Oates

The differences between 'some' aid givers and others are often that the aid monies are allocated to construction companies owned by the same government that is funding the potential aid project.

Australia used to get blasted for this 'boomerang aid' but for some reason, no one seems to to saying that about these wonderful new 'aid' projects?

Could it be that the strategy of providing additional kickbacks (sorry incentive initiatives, overseas training visits and additional consultancy emoluments), seems to work better than just straight aid?

Philip Fitzpatrick

This is in effect what the Chinese are doing. They are targeting projects for direct aid as well as making loans to the national government to fritter away as it sees fit.

It is unfortunate that the Chinese targets are not more humanitarian based. Instead of building things they should be targeting the needs outlined by Chips.

It is also unfortunate that the loans it gives to the national government have a hidden sting in the tail.

Nevertheless, Australia could learn a few tricks here.

It once tried to target its aid and upset a lot of Papua New Guineans in the process who thought they were being patronised and portrayed as bad money managers.

If it split its aid like China but in a more open and humanitarian manner it might work better. Give the national government money to play with but also directly fund needy projects; maybe even using the method Chips suggests.

Paul Oates

On another more practical note, I do agree wholeheartedly with Chips about person to person aid.

The central issue is how to remove the sticky fingers between the two points of giver and receiver?

I previously sent a detailed suggestion as requested from AusAid on how to provide aid that worked. That proposal was on the internet for a number of years.

For some reason, the provision and distribution of medical supplies by DFAT to PNG then closely resembled this system for two years. Clearly a case of parallel thinking.

Anyway, after the two spectacular years of success, the PNG Health Minister and his sycophant Department chose to pay K70 million more to a non tenderer who clearly did not and could not deliver what was previously achieved. The supply of pharmaceuticals to PNG then collapsed as Julie Bishop quite rightly refused to fund this corruption.

Ministers and top departmental heads reportedly received wonderful trips abroad however, funded by the corruption, but the PNG people as we know, were sold a pup.

What's to stop that happening again? Removing the official 'sticky fingers' from the process as I originally suggested. Could DFAT again cope with the scenario? Could the PNG government cope with that scenario?

Clearly it requires some lateral thinking as Chips suggests.

Paul Oates

If I remember the story Chips, Cabbage was a pig.

It sure doesn't look like a dog in the photo anyway. (Ahem... Should have gone to Specsavers...)
_________

Woof, oink - you and Phil obviously both have a keen eye for domesticated animals - KJ

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