Desmond Davies, London Bureau Chief
London, May 30, GNA
– The UK topped the table of aid donors in 2014 by spending £188 per head of
its population of 65 million, more than twice the figure of £61 for the US
whose population of 332 million is more than five times that of the UK’s,
according to figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
The updated aid table was released for the G7 summit taking place in Japan on Thursday and Friday. It showed that while the UK spent £13.2 billion on aid in 2014, the American government gave £22 billion during the same period, making it the highest provider of development assistance.
The ongoing heated aid debate in the UK has been further aggravated by Prime Minister David Cameron who, before his Anti-Corruption Summit in London earlier this month, said that Nigeria and Afghanistan, two of the highest recipients of UK aid, were “fantastically corrupt”.
Despite strong opposition from British politicians who feel that UK money should not go to corrupt countries, Mr Cameron’s Conservative government has not touched the aid budget in the face of massive budget cuts.
In keeping with a UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) on foreign assistance, the UK is the only G7 member out of only six aid-giving countries that have adhered to this – the others being Sweden, Norway Luxembourg, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates.
British Conservative politicians who have been on the government’s back to have an aid rethink pounced on the latest figures to call for change of the 2015 legislation that led to the ring fencing of the UK’s aid budget.
Conservative MP Philip Davies was quoted by The Daily Telegraph as saying: “We are clearly the mugs of the world.
“The Prime Minister might think it makes us look compassionate to spend more and more money when we’re in debt – to hand it over to some fantastically corrupt countries around the world.
“I personally think it makes us look stupid.
“You should spend what you can afford.
“It is absolutely unjustifiable.”
Another Conservative MP, Peter Bone, said in the newspaper: “We should learn a lesson from other countries that put their populations first and decide to spend money at home, rather than to give away a sum of money which is completely not based on need – it’s based on a percentage.”
He used the opportunity to campaign for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) when the referendum to decide the country’s future relationship with the 28-member bloc is held on June 23.
The Telegraph quoted him as saying: “The real solution to poverty is not aid, but trade and the worst offender at blocking developing countries is of course the European Union: particularly blocking foreign farmers from selling in from developing nations to protect French farmers and the like.
“If we came out, we would be able to open our markets up to these developing countries.
“At the same time, we could reduce our aid budget, so we could do more good for less money.”
A spokesman for Mr Cameron said: “UK investment in overseas development is firmly in the country’s national interest as well as being part of the manifesto on which the government was elected.”
The OECD, in its Aid Survey for 2016, reveals that there is a shift in overall priorities over the medium term.
The Survey warns: “In the case of Africa, a worrying trend is that two-thirds of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to receive less aid in 2017 than in 2014.
“Only for a few countries [on the continent as a whole] is it expected to increase (e.g. Cameroon, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia).”
In the case of Country Programme Aid (CPA) to Africa, the Survey notes that this grew more rapidly (by +13 per cent) than in other regions from 2012 to 2013 and as such the continent maintained its position as the largest CPA recipient region,
But the Survey says that projections indicate a slowdown in growth for 2014 and a decrease from 2015 onwards, while CPA to Asia, which increased by 10 per cent in 2013, is projected to continue to grow up to 2017.