Ausaid Director examines partnership with Solomon Islands | Pacific Beat

Ausaid Director examines partnership with Solomon Islands

Ausaid Director examines partnership with Solomon Islands

Updated 2 May 2013, 16:29 AEST

The Director General of Ausaid Peter Baxter has been in Solomon Islands over the past few days looking over Ausaid's development partnership with the island nation.

High on the agenda was the way that partnereship will change as RAMSI takes on a different form.

Local Journalist Koroi Hawkins caught up with him during one of his final official engagements and asked him about his trip.

Presenter: Koroi Hawkins

Speaker: The Director General of Ausaid Peter Baxter

BAXTER: It's been fantastic, Solomon Islands is a country I've worked on for half of my life, and so it's always a pleasure to come here. But I was here to talk about our partnership for development, and particularly the changes that will take place in that partnership as RAMSI takes on a different form just to focus on security, and the development parts of RAMSI will become now part of the bilateral partnership for development between Australia and the Solomon Islands government. So we reached agreement yesterday on the timetable for that transition, and the things that we're going to do in really important areas like health, in education, in rural development and in improving governance in Solomon Islands. So we've got some ambitious targets that we're going to try and achieve jointly and make real difference to people's lives here.

HAWKINS: You signed some anti-fraud documents with the minister yesterday, what was that about?

BAXTER: Fraud is an issue that appears in many of our aid programs, it's not unique to Solomon Islands. But what we agreed yesterday is that we would work together, the Australian and Solomon Islands government to ensure that every dollar that we spend actually gets to those targets that we've identified. And if you think about fraud in the aid program it is stealing from the poorest people in this country, and it's really not acceptable. So we're delighted that we can firm up our partnership with Solomon Islands to fight corruption and to fight fraud in this country.

HAWKINS: Is it a big problem?

BAXTER: It's a problem of any size, fraud of any size is a problem. And it's something that we have to eliminate. We have a zero tolerance policy on fraud, and we need to make sure that Australian taxpayer's money actually achieves the kind of objectives that we want it to achieve. And I know the Solomon Island government feels the same about its funding and its resources. So it's important that we keep working on this area and we keep making progress.

HAWKINS: You mentioned a lot about education, is this ongoing or new?

BAXTER: We've decided over the last few years to really lift our focus on education because all other development flows from education, particularly the education of girls. If you invest in girls' education they're likely to get married later, they're likely to have fewer and healthier children, they're likely to educate their children, and of course when they get a job they'll earn more money. So it's a great virtuous circle investing in girls, but investing in boys as well. And I mentioned this morning we're really pleased of the almost 500 graduates from the Australian Pacific Technical Colleges, over half of them are women. And we heard some inspiring stories today of women who are coming back, doing business and creating jobs.

HAWKINS: Any last words?

BAXTER: I think Solomon Islands has a great future and it's a future that Australia wants to be a partner with, but it's really for Solomon Islanders and the Solomon Islands government to take the lead on development issues here. AusAid can help through our programs, but the vast majority of resources that are applied to development in this country are the resources of the Solomon Islands people and government. Now we can get behind that where they've got sensible policies and we'll continue to do that.

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