Posted on April 16, 2014

Britain’s Aid Spending the Highest in Europe

Matthew Holehouse, Telegraph (London), April 14, 2014

Britain hiked its aid spending by more than any other country in Europe last year, figures show.

Foreign aid soared by 28 per cent last year, meaning the UK hit its target of spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on overseas development.

It left Britain with the second most generous aid budget in the world, outstripped only by the United States, and it came as a series of developed nations cut back on their aid spending.

The figures will reignite concerns among Tory MPs that the aid budget is ill-directed and has ballooned at the expense of other Whitehall departments.

Britain spent £10.6 billion on official development assistance in 2013, up from £8.3 billion in 2012, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development–a hike of 27.8 per cent.

It leaves Britain’s aid budget second only to the United States, which spent £18.9 billion on aid, with an increase of only 1.3 per cent on the previous year.

The increase was the biggest in the European Union and outstripped only by Japan, which expanded its debt forgiveness programme; Turkey, which has poured millions into the Syrian crisis on its border; and the UAE, which took “exceptional measures” to support Egypt.

Britain hit David Cameron’s target of spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on aid for the first time and is the only major power to do so, joining the Nordic states of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

By contrast the US spent 0.19 per cent, Spain 0.16 per cent, Germany 0.38 per cent, France 0.41 per cent and Russia 0.03 per cent.

Meanwhile, Australia, Canadia, France, the Netherlands and Portugal cut their aid spending, in the latter’s case by 20 per cent.

The sustained spending on aid has produced disquiet among ministers struggling to make steep cuts. The Foreign Office budget is due to halve by 2015-16.

Justine Greening, the development secretary, has privately warned colleagues they face an investigation by the aid watchdog if their departments misuse overseas aid budgets. Some ministers have attempted to re-label their departments’ spending as aid in order to protect it from cuts, Whitehall sources say.

Ms Greening is understood to be particularly frustrated by Ed Davey’s energy department’s decision to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on projects to cut carbon emissions in middle income countries.

Tobias Ellwood, the Prime Minister’s envoy to Nato, has urged Mr Cameron to follow the example of Nordic countries by allowing some defence spending to count as aid. Such a move would soften the blow of cuts to the MoD and take into account the fact that the Army and Royal Navy are often called on for disaster relief or to aid state-building.

The figures came in a year when OECD spending on aid reached a record high of £80 billion, meaning Britain provides one pound in eight.

However, the OECD said it was alarmed that spending in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen by four per cent, while middle income states such as Mexico, China, India and Uzbekistan will enjoy year-on-year increases of five per cent until 2017, often in the form of soft loans.

“It is heartening to see governments increasing their development aid budgets again, despite the financial constraints they are currently facing,” said Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General.

“However, assistance to some of the neediest countries continues to fall, which is a serious concern.”

Where Britain’s aid money goes

Department for Culture Media and Sport

Program to make PE lessons more “meaningful and exciting” in 20 countries including Malaysia, South Africa, Brazil and Turkey, following London 2012 Olympics.

Cost: £8.35m over four years

Department of Energy and Climate Change

Program to reduce “greenhouse gas emissions from cattle ranching” in Colombia.

Cost: £15m over four years

Department of Energy and Climate Change

Renewable energy and low-carbon transport projects in Chile, India, Nigeria and Turkey.

Cost: £75m.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Britain contributes to Europeaid, the EU’s aid program. Projects including equipping border guards in Belarus, a dictatorship, and funding a waterpark in Morocco.

Cost: £1bn a year

Department for International Development

Yegna, a girlband dubbed the Ethiopian ‘Spice Girls’, is intended to empower teenage girls through song.

Cost: £3.8m a year.

Department for International Development

Trademark Southern Africa, intended to boost commerce, was swiftly shut down by Mrs Greening after watchdog found officials earning more than £100,000 and cash being administered by Zimbabwean regime.

Cost: £100m.