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Overseas Aid Misallocated, Prebble Says

Wednesday 15 May 2002

ACT leader Richard Prebble has criticised the government's decision to increase overseas aid by $4 million, principally to assist Indonesia.

"Indonesia recently bought several German-built submarines for its navy - an extravagance New Zealand can't afford," Mr Prebble said.

"Indonesia has vast resources and its problems are caused almost entirely by political incompetence. This government can find money for Indonesia, while 30 percent of all Maori children leave school without a qualification.

"As a former Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, I believe the decision to switch New Zealand's aid in the Pacific away from helping Pacific Islanders study at New Zealand universities and polytechnics, in favour of assisting primary school education in the Pacific, is a major mistake. It is very unpopular in the Pacific.

"New Zealand has for over 50 years been the country of first choice for Pacific Islanders seeking tertiary education. This has meant generations of Pacific leaders have close links with New Zealand - even becoming Otago rugby supporters.

"Matt Robson's ideologically-driven switch in the aid vote will mean the next generation of Pacific Island leaders will be forced to go to Australia to study.

"New Zealand wields a disproportionate degree of influence on international bodies such as the UN, the Commonwealth, World Bank and WTO because of our friendship with small Pacific nations, based on the fact that their leaders studied in this country.

"It's the reason Mike Moore is head of the WTO, Don McKinnon is Commonwealth Secretary General and Denis Marshall the secretary of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. There are a host of other New Zealanders holding secondary positions in these organisations for the same reason. Australia has never held any of the positions I have named, but they will in future, due to our government's switch in the aid vote.

"The Labour/Alliance government is continually committing foreign affairs blunders. Pacific Island nations can educate their own children at primary level - any failure to do so is usually due to misallocation of resources.

"Pacific Island nations need access to our institutions of higher learning, and that's where we should focus our aid," Mr Prebble said.


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