Australia increases aid package to Burma



(Mizzima) – Burma will receive the largest increase in aid in percentage terms from the Australian government for 2012-2013, up to $63.8 million from $48.8 million.

In a briefing on the aid budget, AusAID Director-General Peter Baxter said aid to Burma was likely to increase in the future if the Burmese government continued to implement reforms.

In a statement, AusAID said Burma is among the poorest countries in Southeast Asia with almost one-third of its 60 million people living in poverty.

“Burma’s development remains severely constrained by a lack of progress towards real democracy, economic reform and improved service delivery,” it said. “Ongoing conflict has resulted in refugee populations fleeing to neighbouring countries with estimates of between 500,000 and up to one million people internally displaced.”

While reliable data on Burma is difficult to obtain, public investment in the basic building blocks of human development – health and education – is officially estimated at between two and three per cent of GDP per year. This prolonged lack of investment has severely degraded health and education outcomes, AusAID said.

Australia is one of the largest donors in Burma. It delivers its assistance primarily through U.N. agencies, regional institutions and international nongovernment organizations. Its assistance does not flow directly through Burmese government system.

A large part of its aid works to sustain and improve the living conditions of refugees and displaced people on the Thai side of the Thai-Burma border, and it has supports international NGOs, community organizations and Australian volunteers working with Burmese refugees.

Burma is also included in regional programs addressing people trafficking, emerging infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS. Burma has one of the most serious HIV epidemics in Southeast Asia with an adult prevalence rate of 0.6 per cent. The epidemic is concentrated in high-risk groups (sex workers, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users) where prevalence is high, for example, 35 per cent amongst injecting drug users.

AusAID considers efforts to counter the HIV/AIDS epidemic a high priority for international development and continues to fund primary health care and HIV/AIDS control projects.

photo : UN