Overview of Australia's aid program to Kiribati

How we are helping

2015-16 Total Australian ODA Estimated Outcome
$28.4 million

2016-17 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$20.2 million

2016-17 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$28.7 million

Australia has a longstanding, cooperative relationship with Kiribati based on shared development and security goals.  Australia is the largest aid donor to Kiribati; our aid comprises about 45 per cent of total ODA to Kiribati (excluding Taiwan).  Australia is committed to improving Kiribati’s economic prospects, and strengthening its economic and environmental resilience.

The Australian Government will provide an estimated $28.7 million in total Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Kiribati in 2016-17. This will include an estimated $20.2 million in bilateral funding to Kiribati managed by DFAT.

With gross national income per capita at USD2,280, Kiribati is one of the poorest countries in the region. It has a narrow economic base which relies heavily on fisheries revenue. Formal employment options are limited and youth unemployment is very high. Growth prospects are constrained by geographic isolation, limited resources, impediments to private sector activity and poorly performing state-owned enterprises. Rapid population growth and internal migration to South Tarawa (where 50 per cent of the population lives) is increasing pressure on basic services and infrastructure. This is contributing to poor health outcomes due to overcrowding, limited access to potable water, poor sanitation and hygiene and a rapid rise in chronic diseases. Education outcomes are poor and student retention rates are low. Climate change impacts will exacerbate these development challenges.

In line with Australia’s aid policy and the Kiribati Development Plan, Australia will work with the Kiribati Government in support of two objectives.

Objective 1: Implementing Economic Reforms

Australia's support for the implementation of the Kiribati Government’s Economic Reform Plan will assist Kiribati to maximise the benefits flowing from its resources. Key reforms include increasing fishing license fees and tax revenues, and reducing debt servicing costs and the need for subsidies for State Owned Enterprises. We will support extending the reform agenda to the major spending ministries, education and health, to improve efficiency and service delivery. 

Investments for implementing economic reforms

Objective 2: Building a better educated and healthier population

Building a better educated and healthier population will help improve Kiribati’s economic prospects and resilience. We will work with the Kiribati Government to improve the knowledge, skills and opportunities of young I-Kiribati, enabling them to contribute to a productive and resilient Kiribati community, and to pursue employment in areas of domestic and international demand.

We will also work with the Kiribati Government to improve access to quality preventive, diagnostic and clinical tuberculosis services, and reduce the incidence of diarrhoeal and other diseases through better sanitation and the management of potable water supplies.

Investments for building a better educated and healthier population

Cross cutting issues

Australia is working to address issues of gender equality, inclusion of people with disability and climate change resilience across all our investments. The Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Country Plan for Kiribati aims to reduce the incidence of gender based violence, improve the economic empowerment of women, and increase the participation of women in public life and decision making. It forms part of the regional Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development program.

Australia is working with the Government of Kiribati to implement its disability-inclusive policy including by improving access to and quality of disability-specific services. An important component of our support is the refurbishment of Kiribati’s rehabilitation centre for people with physical disabilities. Australia is also funding improvements to the mental health ward of Kiribati’s main hospital.

To help strengthen Kiribati’s climate resilience, Australia provided $11.76 million in funding (from January 2008 to June 2013) to protect ground water resources, improve fresh water supplies in Tarawa and improve coastal protection of vital public infrastructure.

Our results

Our results for 2015–16 will be updated later this year. Australia's aid program has contributed to:

Objective 1: Implementing Economic Reforms

  • Australia’s support for the Government of Kiribati’s economic reforms contributed to an estimated 28 per cent increase in revenue collection from 2013 to 2014. Reforms include the strengthening of the National Planning Office to perform its core functions in budgeting, planning, and providing macro advice for decision-making; the introduction of a Value Added Tax in July 2014; increases to fishing licensing fees; and reforms to state-owned enterprises. Australia supported the introduction of an automated tax system in April 2014 and provided supplementary staff capacity development to further strengthen revenue collection.

Objective 2: Building a better educated and healthier population

  • Since 2011, Australia has supported the rehabilitation of school facilities for 4,912 I-Kiribati school children, and expanded access to water and sanitation facilities for a further 4,209 school children and teachers. Rehabilitated schools are reporting increases to their enrolment rates. An improved curriculum for years 1–4, together with associated teaching resources and teacher training, has now been rolled out, benefitting more than 11,000 children.
  • Since 2012, Australian support has enabled 642 young I-Kiribati women and men to graduate from the Kiribati Institute of Technology with internationally recognised qualifications in accounting, business, community services, automotive, electro-technology, carpentry, plumbing, drainage and roofing.
  • In 2015, Australia awarded 32 university scholarships to I-Kiribati women and men to study in Australia and the region.
  • Australia supported the re-construction and re-equipping of the Tungaru Rehabilitation Centre (destroyed by a fire in 2012) which re-opened in late 2015. The Centre provides the only rehabilitation services in Tarawa, including fitting and support for prosthetics, physiotherapy and counselling for people with or at risk of developing complications from a non-communicable disease. The increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases, especially diabetes, has resulted in a steady rise in amputations in Kiribati and an increased number of people with disabilities. Australia has also supported the professional development of staff to help with the full operation of the Centre.
  • Australia, in partnership with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, is financing a project to rehabilitate the road on South Tarawa. Upon completion in 2016, the program will have improved 26.1 kilometers of paved road; paved 12.7 kilometers of road; added 67 kilometers of footpaths and 56 speed humps; repaired bridges; built bus stops; and installed solar powered street lights. The project is reducing travel time and providing people with a safer and cleaner environment.

Our changing program

Australia’s proposed aid objectives are guided by shared priorities with the Kiribati Government and an assessment of key constraints to economic growth and poverty reduction. They reflect an understanding of where our aid can most effectively support Kiribati’s development and strengthen its economic and environmental resilience.

Australia has broadened its support for labour mobility by expanding opportunities for Kiribati workers under the Pacific Seasonal Workers Programme. The program, led by the Department of Employment, connects Pacific island workers with Australian employers experiencing labour shortages, typically in rural and remote areas. This benefits both parties and the average worker remits around $5,000 during a six-month placement. Australia has also established the new Pacific Microstates – Northern Australia Worker Pilot Program. This five year pilot program will provide up to 250 citizens from Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru with access to a multiyear visa to work in northern Australia.

Australia is also seeking to expand its support to improve primary level health care by working with the Kiribati Government to strengthen its tuberculosis and non-communicable disease program.

Following the completion of current investments ($48.47 million, 2011–16), Australia’s support for infrastructure will focus on strengthening the Kiribati Government’s ongoing maintenance of infrastructure through support for the Economic Reform Plan. This reflects Australia’s comparative advantage in a sector where there are significant and continuing investments by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), New Zealand and Japan.

In 2016, the New Colombo Plan has supported 10 Australian students from the University of New South Wales to work collaboratively with Kiribati communities on climate resilience. A New Colombo Plan scholarship recipient will also undertake an internship in Kiribati focused on community-based fisheries management.