Australian Overseas Development Assistance and the Rural Poor
Australian overseas development assistance is not simply driven by a desire to assist poorer countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The fundamental premise of Australian aid is, first and foremost, its own national interest.
This includes promotion of Australian business and financial interests as well as national security enhancement. Whilst it is a relatively smaller player in the global donor community, Australia is a leading donor agency in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Officially, it is assumed by the Australian aid community that the way to combat poverty is to push for vibrant capitalist development. In order to push for this kind of development, it is urgently necessary to help create dynamic land markets because, it is assumed, this will bring investments into the rural economy, which will in turn create jobs and reduce poverty. It is in this context that the central focus of Australian aid, in promoting technical land administration, which includes land registry, land titling, cadastres and so on, should be seen. Australian aid does not support and promote re-distributive land policies like land reform. It is therefore doubtful whether Australia’s aid intervention will ever make any significant positive contribution to poverty reduction.