Experts at the Lowy Institute and the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University (ANU), two think tanks, have expressed concerns about the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for Australian development assistance.
Australian official development assistance (ODA) went from US$800 million in 2014-15 to a low of just over US$400 million in 2018- 2019. Serious COVID-19 infections in neighboring countries could exacerbate this fall in available funds. The deferral of Australia’s budget to October 2020 has no specific effect on the development assistance budget which is already capped annually at A$4 billion, although cuts could occur.
The ongoing problems of Papua New Guinea’s healthcare system and the demonstrated weakness in other Pacific countries’ health systems are also cause for concern. While there will be considerable need for Australian health assistance, there are concerns that toxic domestic politics around ODA could affect the development assistance budget.