ActionAid Australia has made a submission to Treasury on the 2021-2022 Federal Budget.
ActionAid welcomes the Government’s recent announcements of additional financial support for developing countries in the Pacific and South East Asia to respond to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Infection rates are continuing to surge across the world, and developing countries are being impacted the most as the pandemic drives what the United Nations terms ‘three waves of crisis’ with a public health pandemic, economic shock and widespread starvation converging. Australia’s Vaccine Access in the Pacific and South East Asia package and COVID-19 Response Packages for the Pacific and Timor Leste and South East Asia are critical in enabling the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine across the Pacific and South East Asia and represent an important first step in addressing the ongoing economic fallout from this crisis.
It is critical that Australia continues to step up its support for developing countries in the 2021-22 budget. The health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic are becoming more entrenched as the crisis continues, with the World Bank now predicting that an additional 143 – 163 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2021. Women and girls are amongst the most impacted. Women have been disproportionately impacted by job losses due to their concentration in precarious employment. They also make up the majority of frontline health workers responding to the pandemic, and their unpaid work has magnified due to school and childcare closures and the need to care for sick family and community members. ActionAid research has also shown an alarming spike in violence against women in all regions due to lockdown measures.
Australia should take this opportunity to build on recent COVID-19 assistance packages by committing to a 15 percent increase in Official Development Assistance (ODA) in the 2021-22 Budget, with a particular focus on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and fragile and conflict-affected states that are most vulnerable to this crisis. An increase in the Australian Aid Program would enable developing country partners to respond to the immediate impacts of the pandemic, whilst also continuing to drive long-term development objectives and economic recovery. Australia should also respond to the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on women and girls, through targeted policies and scaled-up investment in women-led development and humanitarian responses.
 World Bank (2021) Updated estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty: Looking back at 2020 and the outlook for 2021, 11 January.