Wednesday, 27 November 2013

There are demands being

made by some correspondents to the media that Australia should cut all aid to Indonesia. The demands are being made because of the spying allegations, the diplomatic row, the withdrawal of cooperation and the trade "sanctions" being applied.
Australia gives Indonesia over $500m in aid every year. It has given aid for a long time.
There is also a notion that countries which are given aid are supposed to be grateful for it. There is a belief that they should behave like a child given a present.
The reality is rather different. Many countries don't really want aid. They accept it because they need it. It is humiliating to realise that they cannot manage without it. They like it even less when they are told how it has to be spent - all too often on something which is different from the way they would have used it themselves.
There are often cultural differences too. How often are other countries subjected to western ideas about birth control and contraception? 
Indonesia would be an exception to all of this if the country was organised and taxed along the lines of a western democracy. It isn't. Wealth in Indonesia is very unevenly distributed. A majority of Indonesians are poor. There are some Indonesians who are incredibly wealthy - and they are almost all in positions of great power as well. There is also a growing middle class. 
If wealth in Indonesia was spread out along the lines of a western democracy then possibly Indonesia would not need any aid. It is a relatively wealthy country with enormous natural resources. But many people still have low levels of education and the country is largely Muslim. Islam has its own ideas about charity and the distribution of wealth. They are not western ideas. 
We give aid to Indonesia in the hope not that it will improve the lives of individuals so much as that it will reduce the perceived threat to us. The argument is that, if aid helps people, then they will be less likely to be discontent. Discontent stirs trouble. Trouble means fundamentalist and radical beliefs will take hold.
Indonesia knows that Australia is not going to suddenly withdraw all aid and our own government knows it too.
Demanding that we withdraw aid from Indonesia is not going to work. It would hurt the people who do benefit from health, water, sanitation and education projects. It would do the most harm to women and children.
There is a presidential election in Indonesia next year. If it were not for that the difficulties would have been far less. Australia is now being used for domestic political purposes in Indonesia.
If we withdrew aid as well it would be a gift to the fundamentalists and radicals who would like more power. That would be a problem. 

No comments: