Just how great was the Budget for overseas aid?
George Osborne’s budget included a claim that, this year, Britain will finally reach the UN target for overseas development assistance – 0.7% of Gross National Income. But what he actually meant was that Britain will plan to spend that much. Which isn’t the same thing at all – as last year’s £500m DFID underspend shows!
People like me, IPPR’s Richard Darlington and David Taylor from the Labour Campaign for International Development (LCID) have been arguing for some time that the Government’s claims over international development spending shouldn’t be taken at face value. As LCID point out again, Government decisions to freeze the aid budget for the first two years of the coalition, and their disastrous mishandling of the economy have massively reduced the aid budget already compared to what it should have been by now.
The household name NGOs behind this year’s “Enough IF” campaign have heaped praise on the Government for not abandoning the pledge made by all major political parties at the last General Election to reach the UN target. But that seems to have more to do with the need to demonstrate campaign ‘wins’ than any genuine victory. After all, the decision to raise the overseas aid budget to 0.7% of GNI was actually confirmed in December’s Autumn Financial Statement, before the NGO campaign was launched. It wasn’t in any real danger.
This matters partly because DFID Ministers are over-claiming how generous they are being with tax payers’ money when there is a real danger that austerity fetishism is reducing public support for what we’re actually spending. But it’s more important that Government decisions are reducing the crucial work that could be done to tackle poverty, injustice and global inequality. If the Government’s claims about overseas aid spending were true, there would be more babies alive, more girls in school, and more people working their way out of poverty.
And that’s a real scandal people ought to hear more about.