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Colombo Plan gets a new face

HONG KONG (SE): Hong Kong is to be included as a place of study and immersion for young Australian undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 28 under what is dubbed the New Colombo Plan, aimed at promoting knowledge of the Indo-Pacific Region in Australian society, a press release from the Australian Consulate General to Hong Kong announced on December 13.

It is being billed as a system of study and internships, and is slated to kick off in 2015, with a pilot project beginning in 2014. 

Apart from Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia and Singapore will participate in the programme, which has been granted an initial budget of AUD100 million ($700 million).

The New Colombo Plan is the original Colombo Plan in reverse. 

Its origins date back to 1950, when the Cooperative Economic Development in South and Southeast Asia was formed at a meeting of foreign ministers from the British Commonwealth in Colombo, in what is now called Sri Lanka.

Several countries, both from the commonwealth and outside it, participated in the programme, originally slated for six years, but extended under one name or another indefinitely.

In the early years, assistance from both developed to developing countries brokered a transfer of physical capital and technology, as well as skills development among countries.

Australia participated in the plan, which saw young students from many war ravaged countries in Asia studying in its universities, as well as participating in the construction of bridges, airports and a variety of factories to gain knowledge and skills to plough into their own economies at home.

However, the New Colombo Plan has a different bent. It is aimed at forging deeper relationships between Australia and the region and ensuring that a good knowledge base of the Indo-Pacific area exists that can place local consciousness more firmly in the region.

It also wants young professionals to be work-ready to deal with their Asian and Pacific counterparts in a meaningful manner.

Initial grants will be for short term internships or up to one year study programmes.


“An alumni model is also being developed to facilitate connections and support the prestige and legacy of the programme in an initial form during the pilot year,” the press release says.

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