Is the UK right to cut Overseas aid to 0.5% of GNI?

The United Kingdom has been a world leader in providing Official Development Aid in recent years. In 2019 the UK was the third largest donor in absolute terms and the 5th largest relative to it’s Gross National Income.

However, that is now set to change as in November 2020 the UK government announced that it would cut UK aid from 0.7% of its GNI to just 0.5% – meaning that it will reduce from around £15 billion per annum to nearer £12 billion.

Arguments for reducing Overseas Development Aid

The main reason for the cut is that we are facing an economic downturn due to Coronavirus, and the Chancellor has said that it’s hard to justify spending money overseas when we are stretched to pay for health, education and benefits at home.

At first glance this relatively small cut to aid expenditure seems justified when the government is looking at a lower income next year due to a decrease in tax returns – because people have been spending and earning less, and because they have had to pay out more to support ‘furloughed’ workers, all of which has been borrowed, and thus increasing the national debt, which will have to be paid off with interest in coming years.

However, there are several arguements against cutting overseas development aid:

Arguments against cutting overseas aid

  • millions of children will go without vaccinations next year, and around 100 000 will die (presumably in 2020) from preventable disease as a result.
  • 2 million people will lose humanitarian support
  • almost 4 million will lost access to clean water.
  • (Source for the above)
  • and without this assistance more children will die.
  • Fewer children will go to school, one million fewer as a result of the 30% cut.
  • Ironically it may hurt economic growth – aid gives us influence in emerging markets which can benefit British businesses (especially as aid is now more targeted towards supporting UK interests).
  • It harms our national reputation as wanting to play a role in global governance, especially post Brexit.
  • It breaks a commitment we made to UN and breaks UK Law – the 0.7% was enshrined in law in 2015.

Find out more…

For more information on this topic, please see the links on my ‘Globalisation and Global Development‘ page.

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