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The budget provisions for our Pacific neighbours wont have any impact on China

By Jeffrey Wall - posted Friday, 28 October 2022


Our Pacific family will probably be happy with the small increase in development assistance contained in the Federal Budget on Tuesday night.

There are probably well meaning, highly paid bureaucrats deep in the bowels of DFAT in Canberra who will believe the additional $200 million a year for four years will stop China in its tracks and its expansion in countries like PNG, Solomons, Fiji, will be slowed, if not end.

It won't! China has ceased competing for development assistance in our region. Its focus is on gaining control of businesses, state-owned enterprises and resource industries then requiring their expansion and development to be undertaken by Chinese bank loans, guaranteed by island governments, with all work to be undertaken by Chinese construction companies only.

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So additional budget allocation is welcome. But it's impact won't make a massive difference.

As I have written on numerous occasions, we will have to take a "big picture" approach, assist our private sector lift its presence in the region, and fund substantial projects such as Purari hydro.

Hopefully that may come in the May budget...hopefully!

In the meantime, DFAT and the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee might look at the integrity of some of our existing funding arrangements in our region. Are we getting good value for our money and are our needy neighbours getting the real assistance they need.

A good start might be made with a look at the Forum Fisheries Agency which is supposed to assist our island neighbours get full value for their fisheries.

I have long suspected they are not getting it given just how dominant China has become in the sector with downstream processing and massive export of fish and other marine products to China without monitoring, no taxes, and almost zero small business and job creating activity.

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China is exploiting our region's vast and valuable marine resources with deals with corrupt ministers and officials with ruthless efficiency.

The Forum Fisheries Agency is funded by contributions from a number of countries including Australia. It is based in Honiara, the Solomon Islands capital. Australia contributes around $10 million a year to the FFA.

Recently the Solomons PM, Manasseh Sogavare, no friend of Australia, and a delegation of 12, spent several weeks on an overseas trip which cost over $300,000.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Wall CSM CBE is a Brisbane Political Consultant and has served as Advisor to the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu Prime Minister 1988-1992 and Speaker 1994-1997.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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