Government to slash foreign aid budget by £2.9 billion
The UK will reduce its foreign aid budget by £2.9 billion this year amid fears of the impact the Covid-19 pandemic may have on the economy.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said that the government would maintain a commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income [GNI] on international development despite the move.
£15.8 billion had been dedicated to Official Development Assistance [ODA] prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
Following criticism of the move from Labour’s chair of the Commons International Development Committee, Sarah Champion, Raab penned a letter emphasising the “severe economic downturn” from the Covid-19 pandemic as the driving force behind the move.
Champion had accused the government of “poor practice” by announcing the cuts on the final day of Parliament’s sitting prior to the summer recess, preventing scrutiny from MPs.
Champion had written to Raab, saying: "If it is with immediate effect, do the projects know or will they find out via the media as Department for International Development staff did about the merger? Is there an overarching strategy in place?
"Clearly there has been no consultation, but to release this news literally as Parliament rises so there can be no scrutiny by MPs is poor practice."
Raab reassured that despite the cuts, foreign aid funds would remain “prioritised on poverty reduction” and be directed toward “tackling climate change and reversing biodiversity loss, championing girls’ education, UK leadership in the global response to Covid-19, and campaigning on issues such as media freedom and freedom of religious belief”.
He added that the cuts would help the government “proceed prudently” for the remainder of the year amid “potential shrinkage” in the economy.
Raab said: "The package I have agreed with the prime minister maintains our flexibility and enables the government to manage our ODA spend against an uncertain 0.7 per cent position."
The prime minister had previously announced that the Department for International Development would merge with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, sharing his view at the time that UK foreign aid was being treated like a “giant cashpoint in the sky that arrives without any reference to UK interests”.