Overview of Australia's aid program to Kiribati

How we are helping

2014/15 Bilateral Outcome
$20.2 million

2015/16 Bilateral Budget Estimate
$20.2 million

2015/16 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$27.9 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 $27.9 million in total Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Kiribati in 2015–16.  This will include an estimated $20.2 million in bilateral funding to Kiribati managed by DFAT.

With gross national income per capita at USD2,150, 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

Australian 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 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 primary level health care through a more capable health workforce and better health information, 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 will provide an estimated $1.2 million of bilateral funding in 2015-16 to support the Country Plan in Kiribati. Supplementary support from regional organisations will be provided through 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 the physically disabled. Australia is also funding improvements to the mental health ward.

In support of improving resilience, Australia has 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 2014–15 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 nine per cent increase in revenue collection from 2013 to 2014. Reforms include the introduction of a Value Added Tax in July 2014, increases to fishing licensing fees and reforms to state-owned enterprises. Australia’s support for the upgrade to an automated tax system in December 2014 and supplementary staff capacity development has also improved service delivery and efficiency over 2015.

Objective 2: Building a better educated and healthier population

  • Since 2011, Australia has supported the rehabilitation of school facilities for 2,790 i-Kiribati primary school children, and expanded access to water and sanitation facilities for a further 2,943 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 389 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 30 university scholarships to i-Kiribati women and men and provided scholarships for 51 students to enroll in vocational training at the Australia Pacific Technical College. 
  • Australia supported the construction of the Betio Maternity Ward which opened in 2014 to provide care for up to 2,500 women annually. The maternity ward, along with the provision of specialised maternity ward equipment, has improved outcomes for mothers and newborns, reduced congestion at the central hospital, and increased the number of women giving birth under the supervision of a skilled birth attendant.
  • 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.

Recently we have broadened our support for labour migration by expanding opportunities for Kiribati workers under the Pacific Seasonal Workers Programme. The programme, 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 Programme. This new five year pilot programme will provide up to 250 citizens from Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru with access to a multiyear visa to work in northern Australia.

We are also seeking to expand our support to improve primary level health care through working with the Kiribati Government to develop a more capable health workforce and better health information.

Our support for economic infrastructure, following the completion of our current investments ($48.47 million, 2011–16), will focus on strengthening the Kiribati Government’s ongoing maintenance of infrastructure through our support for the Economic Reform Plan. This reflects our 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 2015, the New Colombo Plan will support 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 nutrition and food security.