The UK Parliament voted on Tuesday to cut Overseas Aid from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5% of GDP, a cut which The Guardian refers to as a ‘hammer blow’ for some of the world’s poorest peoples facing persecution in countries such as Yemen and Syria.
This is an important update for any student studying the Global Development Module as part of A-level sociology.
Previous to the cuts the UK had the second highest aid budge relative to its GDP compared to any other country besides Germany and was among one of very few large developed countries to have met this Millennium Development Goal target. (NB that’s not a typo, the 0.7 of GPD target was set as part of the MDGs 1.0 back in the year 2000, even though they ended in 2015 to be replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals, still only a few countries met that pledge even in all those years).
Now we’re back in mid-league obscurity for aid donors by proportion of GDP.
The stated reason for the cuts to foreign aid are that the UK has spent over $400 billion on combatting Coronavirus and that next year our debt will exceed the total value of our economic output.
Boris Johnson says the cut from 0.7% to 0.5% is temporary and will return to 0.7% when economic circumstances allow
Arguments against cutting aid
It’s worth noting that every living prime minister besides Boris Johnson is against cutting aid
There’s been quite an active response outlining the impact of the cuts from various activists such as this tweet from Malala Yousafzai:
Spoke with Prime Minister @BorisJohnson this morning. I applaud his dedication to girls' education – but I am concerned he won't reach his goal of helping 40M girls go to school unless the U.K. recommits 0.7% of national income to aid and pledges £600M to @GPforEducation.— Malala (@Malala) April 23, 2021
Some further arguments against cutting aid include…
- UK is already spending LESS on UK aid anyway, it’s down from $14 to to $10 Billion this year compared to the previous year already, because our GNP has already shrunk due to the pandemic. Thus the link between the economy doing worse and aid spending being cut is ALREADY in place!
- It’s a relatively small amount money that will do very little to help the UK get back on its feet, whereas the difference this money might make abroad is huge.
- Related to point 2, this could well be false economy – that money could prevent further strain on the UK economy, OR help the UK economy, especially since UK aid is now organised through the FCO rather than DFID, and the former is more cynical in the way it spends UK aid money anyway – more likely to use it to benefit the UK economy.
- Contrary to the news reporting about Philanthropists ‘stepping in’ to plug the UK aid cuts, this isn’t true – the aid cut is worth around $3 Billion the ‘pledge’ is currently at around $100 Million – 30 times less. This is a good example of media bias, the mainstream media REALLY should be more critical of these global elites!