Subject: SMH: Serious Doubts About Timor Aid, Says Australian Labor Party

The Sydney Morning Herald

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Serious Doubts About Timor Aid, Says Labor

by Matt Wade

THE effectiveness of hundreds of millions of dollars in government aid to Australia's troubled neighbour East Timor has been questioned by the Opposition.

Labor's spokesman for international development assistance, Bob McMullan, said there had been no formal country strategy to guide the allocation of Australia's aid to East Timor since it became independent from Indonesia five years ago.

Even so, the Federal Government has contributed $253.2 million since then to help the fledgling nation.

Mr McMullan said the lack of a country strategy for East Timor raised serious questions about the effectiveness of aid.

"The Government professes concern about aid effectiveness but when it comes to one of our major programs in our most important neighbours, they have fallen at the first hurdle," he said.

"Public confidence in the effectiveness of the aid program is vital and I am very disappointed that the Government is not acting in a manner to encourage that level of confidence."

East Timor is the seventh biggest recipient of Australian development assistance. It received $75 million in aid from Australia last year and is budgeted to get $73 million next financial year.

According the Government's aid agency, AusAID, a country strategy provides "the overall policy and implementation framework for Australia's aid program in any given country".

It translates the Government's overall aid policy themes and strategies into programs tailored to individual country circumstances and priorities. Country strategies are developed and agreed jointly between Australia and recipient governments and help measure the effectiveness of aid spending.

A spokeswoman for AusAID, Bronwyn Coles, said it was developing a new country strategy that will be completed in consultation with a new Timorese government after parliamentary elections on June 30.

Ms Coles said the Australian Government currently supports a National Development Plan designed by the Timorese Government in consultation with the United Nations, World Bank and donor countries. "The monitoring and evaluation of programs designed to deliver on priorities identified in this plan, including those supported by Australia, is conducted regularly," she said.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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