Australia plans to increase its assistance for Vietnam to 137.9 million AUD (roughly 150 million USD) in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, compared with 131.9 million AUD in 2009-2010 and 127.4 million AUD in 2010-2011.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), this was part of Australia ’s decision to increase its foreign aid budget for Asian countries in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, in order to recognise the region’s increasing position in the global economy.

Vietnam has been one of the countries receiving the largest amount of aid and the Australian government spoke highly of the country’s impressive growth as well as its achievements in hunger elimination and particularly a reduced poverty rate, which dropped from 58 percent in 1993 to 12.3 percent in 2009, the ABC said.

In the 2010-2015 period, Australia’s assistance strategy for Vietnam will focus on three key areas – human resource development; the promotion of economic integration, especially infrastructure and policy reform; and sustainable development in terms of safe water, hygiene, climate change and agriculture reasearch, according to the national news agency.

In education, the country will grant more than 300 graduate and post-graduate scholarships in the 2011-2012 fiscal year, to help Vietnam raise the quality of education.

Australia will continue its investment in transport infrastructure in rural areas, especially transport projects in the southern region, to boost trade ties with regional countries, while helping Vietnam revamp institutions and relevant policies.

The country also committed to supporting people in the Mekong Delta region in coping with the adverse impacts of climate change, developing sustainable livelihoods and improving access to clean water sources and hygiene, with a target of 86 percent of rural residents gaining access to safe water and 63 percent having hygienic latrines.

Australia has planned to add an additional 474 million AUD to its foreign aid budget in the 2011-2012 financial year, raising the total amount to 4.84 billion AUD or 0.35 percent of the country’s gross national income (GNI), according to the budget draft recently announced by Australian Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Australia’s closest neighbours receive the largest amounts, with Indonesia and Papua New Guinea each being given about 500 million AUD./.