Overview of Australia’s aid program to Bangladesh

How we are helping

2014-15 Bilateral Outcome
$72.1 million

2015-16 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$42.1 million

2015-16 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$59.8 million

The Australian Government is providing an estimated $59.8 million in total ODA to Bangladesh in 2015-16. This includes an estimated $42.1 million in bilateral funding to Bangladesh managed by DFAT.

Australia’s bilateral relationship with Bangladesh continues to grow. Two-way trade exceeded $1.1 billion in 2014 on the back of sustained growth in the Bangladesh economy. Australia is increasingly a preferred education destination for Bangladeshi students. Our development partnership – one of Australia’s largest – is long-standing.

Poverty has steadily declined over the last 20 years in Bangladesh, but 47 million people still live in poverty – the highest per capita poverty levels in South Asia. 28 million of these people are classified as extremely poor, which means they are unable to satisfy their minimum food needs. Elimination of absolute extreme poverty is one of the biggest challenges facing Bangladesh. The poor often do not have adequate foundational education, skills or assets to participate in and gain from growth in the economy. Access to better quality education in Bangladesh will develop higher value skills and more productive livelihoods, which combined with effective social protection systems, will help to re-distribute the benefits of growth.

Australia’s ODA will support initiatives to enable Bangladesh to meet its development objectives with a particular focus on education and building economic resilience among the poorest and most marginalised communities. In both areas, we will prioritise gender equality by focusing on empowering women and girls.

Australia’s support to Bangladesh aligns with the Bangladesh Government’s vision for the country, outlined in its Sixth Five Year Plan 2011–2015. Although the Seventh Five Year Plan 2016- 2020 is yet to be finalised, the Bangladesh Government has stated that the plan will aim to boost economic growth and empower citizens as part of the Government’s long-term vision for eliminating poverty.

Australia is focusing its efforts in Bangladesh in areas where Australia can make a difference and where our resources can most effectively and efficiently be deployed.

Our program is outlined in greater detail in the 2015/16- 2018/19 Bangladesh Aid Investment Plan.

Objective 1: Improving education access, equity, efficiency and learning outcomes

Supporting primary education will assist Bangladesh to address some of its productivity constraints by improving literacy, numeracy and overall ‘trainability’ of the future workforce. Australia is supporting the Government of Bangladesh’s reform drive by actively participating in the policy and management working groups of the Government’s primary education program, complemented by our budget support and funding for technical assistance through other development partners.

Australia is also expanding access to education opportunities for Bangladeshis. We are working with BRAC, the largest non-government organisation in Bangladesh, to provide second-chance education. This benefits children, predominantly girls from poor families as well as children with a disability, who have dropped out or never enrolled in school.

Investments for improving education access, equity, efficiency and learning

Objective 2: Building economic resilience by reducing vulnerability and improving inclusion in the growing economy

Creating opportunities for the poorest of the population to engage in the economy will help promote resilience and stability. Australia is doing this by improving Bangladesh’s social protection systems, as well as increasing the productive capacity of the poor, through a range of complementary investments. Australia is also assisting extremely poor women to find pathways out of poverty, building on the lessons and successes of our livelihoods investments. These programs are providing people with cash transfers, productive assets, training and access to free health services. This package of support has been proven to increase income earning capacity amongst the poor.

Through a strategic partnership arrangement with BRAC and the UK, Australia is helping women, young people and people with a disability find employment through skills training programs that are consistent with Bangladesh labour market demands.

Investments for building economic resilience by reducing vulnerability and improving inclusion in the economy

* Our support for scholarships and volunteers complements these objectives by helping to build capacity in individuals, institutions and communities. Increasingly, our support in these areas will not only be aligned with our aid objectives, but will also serve much broader development and national interest priorities in sectors of mutual interest to Bangladesh and Australia.

Our results

Increased access to improved education

Results in the education program show that working through partnerships with government and other development partners can produce large scale change. Achievements in the education program linked directly to Australia’s funding, policy advocacy and technical advice have included:

In 2013-14

  • Delivery of over one million primary text books country-wide on time with a streamlined government tendering process
  • Primary education services to over 20 million Bangladeshi children through Government schools, and to over one million children from extremely poor families through BRAC-supported pre-primary or primary schools
  • Completion of the second National Student Assessment, which is providing new information to Government about the quality of teaching
  • Accreditation for a new teaching diploma through Dhaka University, with implementation in 29 primary teacher training institutes in 2013, expanding to 36 in 2014.

Australia also provided 131 Australia Awards, comprising around 72 long-term and 59 short-term awards to Bangladesh for studies in priority areas of social and economic policy.

Resilience to poverty

In 2013-14

Australia provided direct support to extremely poor families and worked with partners to strengthen national social welfare policies. Our partnership with BRAC and the UK helped:

  • 107,000 extremely poor women and their families by providing them with access to cash transfers, productive assets and training.

Australia’s nutrition and food security support through the World Food Programme provided:

  • a safety net to more than 700 vulnerable families in Cox’s Bazar district.

A draft social security policy developed by the Government of Bangladesh drew from economic analysis funded by Australia, while a study tour to South Africa, led by Australia, further built awareness among senior Bangladeshi officials of the economic benefits of strong social welfare systems.

Our changing program

Our changing aid program in Bangladesh reflects the priorities of the Government of Bangladesh and the areas where Australia has a comparative advantage and can maximise the benefits of our aid investments. To improve impact as well as efficiency, a consolidation agenda has been progressively implemented over the last two years. We will continue moving to a smaller number of larger investments.

After careful consideration of where Australian aid can be spent most effectively Australia will focus on two priority areas- improved education access and learning outcomes; and building resilience by reducing vulnerability and improving inclusion in the growing economy. Australia will exit from the health sector in Bangladesh. Although health remains important to Bangladesh’s development, larger donors are better placed to work with the Government of Bangladesh to tackle challenges in the sector. The shift out of this sector has been gradual and has included transitional support to affected partners. Former partner organisations are still eligible for Australia Awards and volunteer placements. Australia will also continue to advocate on health issues where appropriate.

Bangladesh remains vulnerable to natural disasters including seismic and weather related shocks. However we assess that the Government of Bangladesh has capacity to deal with all but the most severe events and that other donors are better positioned to work in this space. Australia began phasing out support to the Comprehensive Disaster Management Program (CDMP), the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF) and the Early Recovery Facility (ERF) in 2014-15. Our continued focus on social protection will support the ability of the poor to return to school or employment following natural and man-made shocks.

Australia will continue to work with government and non-government partners across both objectives, an approach which has proved successful to date. Working with the Bangladesh Government to strengthen national systems promotes more efficient use of domestic resources over time. Support for non-government partners helps Australia to deliver large scale, high quality and innovative programs, complementing government services.

Bilateral funding for long-term Australia Award Scholarships will be re-balanced towards short course awards.

Two smiling women in office look through printed papers
Volunteer Ngatho Mugo researches maternal and child health at the Centre for Child and Adolescent Health (credit: DFAT).
Child walking through alley carrying books on his shoulder
Child prepares to leave for primary school (credit: DFAT).