Overview of Australia’s aid program to Bangladesh

How we are helping

2016-17 Total Australian ODA Estimated Outcome
$57.6 million

2017-18 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$42.1 million

2017-18 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$57.9 million

Australia's bilateral relationship with Bangladesh continues to grow. Two-way trade exceeded $2.0 billion in 2015-16 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.

The Australian Government is providing an estimated $57.9 million in total ODA to Bangladesh in 2017-18. This includes an estimated $42.1 million in bilateral funding to Bangladesh managed by DFAT.

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 extreme poverty is one of the biggest challenges facing Bangladesh. The poor commonly 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 share the benefits of economic 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 Seventh Five Year Plan 2016–2020, in which the Bangladesh Government has committed 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 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 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 2015-16

  • 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.
  • Under the PEDP3 program, around 127,000 schools received more than 110 million textbooks within the first month of the school year in 2016.
  • Textbook revisions to government curriculum from grades 1-5 completed in line with newly introduced competency based learning methods.
  • The every child learns (ECL) initiative which responds to the individual learning needs of the student, expanded from 980 to 1440 primary schools in 2015-16.
Australia also provided 23 Australia Awards in 2016, comprising 22 long-term and 1 short-term award to Bangladesh for studies in priority areas of social and economic policy.

Resilience to poverty

In 2015-16 Australia provided direct support to extremely poor families and worked with partners to strengthen national social welfare policies. Our partnership with BRAC, the World Food Programme and the UK helped 114,506 households with access to increased incomes, and contributed to social transfers for 85,264 households, making a significant difference to the lives of poor people. Deliver high-energy biscuits to 116, 247 schoolchildren in around 500 schools, and regular food assistance to 32,265 refugees in Cox's Bazar district.

Australia supported the implementation of the Bangladesh Government's National Social Security strategy resulting in greater prioritisation of social protection by the Bangladesh Government in its annual budget.

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 three years. 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. 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.

Last Updated: 9 May 2017