UK slashes aid budget amid pandemic

24 Jul 20

The economic damage caused by Covid-19 has led to the UK cutting its international aid budget for 2020 by £2.9bn.

 

In a letter to Sarah Champion, the chair of the parliamentary committee on international development, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the government remains committed to its target to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid – however in monetary terms this will mean a reduction due to the impact of coronavirus on the size of the UK economy.

“Given the likely decrease in the size of the economy this year, the prime minister asked me to identify the changes needed to ensure we meet, but do not exceed, the 0.7% commitment,” Raab wrote.

“As this commitment is based on our GNI, when the economy shrinks, our ODA spend also reduces.”

Raab said the remainder of the budget will be spent on poverty reduction, reversing biodiversity loss, tackling climate change and championing girls’ education.

But the cut is deeper than some people anticipated, and shadow international development secretary Preet Gill criticised the government for slashing the budget by about 20%, when its own estimates suggest the economy contracted by less than 10% in June and July 2020 compared to last year.

She accused the government of “using the excuse of the global pandemic and domestic recession to cut support for the world’s poorest”, and called for projects that have been found to have little development impact to be re-evaluated instead.

Raab said there are arrangements in place “to tailor spending further during the remaining months as we start to gain a clearer economic picture”.

The cut comes just weeks after the government announced its intention to close down its Department for International Development and effectively absorb its operations into the Foreign Office, to tie its aid spending to the UK’s foreign policy objectives.

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