Britain’s foreign aid madness: Cuts at home, but we STILL hand out more than every other G8 country
- Between 2011 and 2012 several countries reined in foreign aid budgets
- But cash-strapped Britain didn’t and spends 0.56% of national income
- Britain’s aid makes us the ‘soft touch’ of the international community
By James Chapman
18 June 2013
Austerity-hit Britain is spending a larger share of its wealth on foreign aid than any other G8 member nation, despite making huge spending cuts at home, a report revealed yesterday.
The G8 ‘accountability’ review showed that between 2011 and 2012 several countries decided to rein in their foreign aid budgets. Japan, Italy and the US chose to focus on helping their own citizens, handing out a smaller percentage of their national income than the year before.
Italy was even given a ‘red light’ warning for failing to meet ‘internationally agreed targets’. But cash-strapped Britain spent 0.56 per cent of national income on aid against 0.19 per cent in the US and just 0.03 per cent in Russia. And we are now on course to spend 0.7 per cent of our national income on overseas aid by the end of this financial year, despite dropping a plan to enshrine that commitment in law.
The report, published as David Cameron hosted the G8 summit in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, will renew complaints that Britain’s aid commitments make us the ‘soft touch’ of the international community.
Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, said: ‘These figures prove that the [morally bankrupt] Government wishes to burnish its moral credentials [what moral credentials?] at the expense of ordinary taxpayers.
‘Britain’s foreign aid budget is rising while hospital accident and emergency departments, libraries and other public services are being cut back or closed.’
Tory MP for Shipley, Philip Davies, a longstanding critic of the Government’s foreign aid commitments, said: ‘Other countries are making more sensible decisions about their priorities given the tough economic times we are in. We are now the mugs of the world. We’re spending money we haven’t got.
‘They are making sure their spending across the board is being cut, not just on domestic things. I’m afraid it proves that our argument that if we do it everyone else will follow suit is just pure humbug.’
Mr Davies also rejected Mr Cameron’s argument that Britain’s lead on aid boosted its standing on the world stage. ‘We’d be chairing the G8 whether or not we were giving this amount of money,’ he insisted.
‘It is a nonsensical argument. The truth is the Prime Minister made a promise he should not have made.
‘He has now boxed himself in but he should be brave enough to say he made it in good faith but the economic situation is now so much more tough and more difficult than anyone anticipated that he has to react.’
The UK’s aid spending stood at 0.56 per cent of national income in 2011/12, or £8.55billion, rising to £8.813billion in 2012/13. But the total is soaring this year to £11.554billion, or 0.7 per cent of national income, and will go up to £12.162billion in 2014/15.
Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘It’s absurd that the UK continues to increase the size of its aid budget far faster than the rest of the G8 despite the huge financial pressures at home.
‘If the Department for International Development made better use of its existing budget and cut out lots of waste and bureaucracy, ministers could achieve even more abroad without increasing the burden on hard-pressed British families.
‘Countries in far better economic health aren’t spending anywhere near as much of their national income on overseas aid, so it beggars belief that our Government is still hiking the amount of our money it is committing.’
However Brendan Cox, from the IF campaign against global hunger, said: ‘UK governments deserve real credit for delivering aid increases that have helped save millions of lives.
‘But with one in eight people in the world going hungry it is high time that other countries also stepped up to the mark and provided the cash they have promised.’
Last week, Mr Cameron attempted to justify Britain’s aid spending, insisting: ‘National interest is not just about standing up for yourself but standing up for what’s right [it is right to stand up for our people – something our plutocratic government is not doing].
‘When a country like Somalia fractures and breaks, that affects us, not just in the terrorism threatened on our streets [there would be no threat if there were no immigrants on our streets], or the flows of mass immigration [proper border controls would prevent this] but in the piracy off the Horn of Africa that affects British trade [giving the Somalian government money with which to buy heavy weapons is not the answer, because such weapons quickly end up in the hands of the pirates and terrorists].
‘When there is instability in the Gulf it affects us too – because 100,000 British citizens live there [meddling in Syria’s civil war does not help].
‘On the other hand, as nations develop and as their middle class grows – that presents huge opportunities for an exporter like Britain [aid does not reach the people of the recipient countries but is misappropriated by their ruling elite].
‘We made the decision to protect the aid budget because I believe this commitment is in Britain’s long-term interests. Yes, this is a moral issue, but it is an economic one too.’ [You only want to make a grand gesture on the international stage – “Look at me!” – “Make poverty history”, etc].