While articles in Solidarity 64 and 65 on the politics behind tsunami aid and recovery have addressed general issues concerning the stinginess of western governments to give, and the inept and corrupt agencies on the ground in affected areas, a number of key political issues have escaped attention.
As reported in Solidarity, the Australian government has led other western governments in “giving” million. Yet almost every cent given to recipient countries will benefit Australian business in some way. This “tied aid” ensures that recipient countries must purchase goods and services from donor countries.
A large part of the aid package to Indonesia is to be managed by a joint committee giving the Australian government almost unfettered control over the decisions about where the money is to be invested. To this end, significant portions of the funds have already been allocated to what the Australian Financial Review calls “long term sustained co-operation and capacity building” and “the re-establishment of the economic infrastructure”.
The degree of local input into community requirements, placement, etc, will not be considered.
In addition, it appears that the Indonesian military is now having some influence on where rebuilt villages and facilities are to be located. This will ensure that a reconstructed Aceh will be configured in such a way that enables a more effective and efficient population control in the restive province.
As a result of the tsunami, the nature of Australian government aid has come under the spotlight. Recent revelations include: the growth industry of senior Australian bureaucrats “assisting” countries like PNG, Fiji and Nauru is funded out of the aid budget and the 2000 federal police and army despatched to the Solomons are likewise calculated as part of the aid budget.
Finally, comment needs to made about the deployment of Australian engineering troops in Indonesia. Armed, or unarmed, the presence of Australian troops will be no boon for Acehnese secessionists. Australian troops have no role in Aceh, now or in the future.