Cuts to Foreign Aid could be Fatal – Liberal Article
The UK government has confirmed that foreign aid will be cut from 0.7% to 0.5%, going ahead with the plans announced in this year’s budget. This decision will have a devastating effect. The government may attempt to justify it as necessary for our Covid-19 recovery but this is not good enough. Any money that may be saved will make no difference to our current living situation, for those who rely on this same amount, this is a life or death issue.
The UN Aid Target is 0.7% of national income, a level that the UK signed up for in 1974, however, only achieved since 2013. We cannot allow it to drop again. It took far too long to get there and now we have, the only direction the amount should be going is up, regardless of our own economic situation. It does not matter that the UK has been seventh in the world for foreign aid. It does not matter that the UK, prior to the cut, is second in the G7 for foreign aid. 0.7% should be the bare minimum. Being comparatively better does not mean that it is good enough. While the rest of the G7 are steadily increasing their aid budget, the UK is cutting back.
To demonstrate how significant this aid is, consider where this money goes. Humanitarian Assistance; Poverty Alleviation; Infrastructure Development, to name a few examples. These are crises in their own right and we have a responsibility to support those countries through foreign aid.
Pakistan received the highest level of foreign aid in 2019. A highly deprived state where nearly a third of people are living below the poverty line and one in eleven children die before five. Statistics that are unimaginable for the majority of citizens in the UK. Aid has been spent on poverty reduction programmes, education alongside other humanitarian initiatives. These programmes rely on the UK and richer nation’s financial support. Without it, the poverty gap will only grow and the situation will worsen.
To highlight the real cost of a 0.2% reduction, the organisations that recieve this foreign aid have outlined the impact. Unicef will see funding reduced by 60%. UNAIDS could lose about 80% of its funding. The WHO’s polio eradication initiative funding will drop from £110m to just £5m. In an attempt to justify these drops further, the government has argued that foreign aid would have reduced anyway. As it is a percentage of income, and because national income is lower, the amount would have fallen anyway. I understand this, but if it is going to be lower anyway the effect of the 0.2% drop is only going to compound the issue.
The pandemic has undoubtedly cost the UK tremendously. However, our financial situation is incomparable to the problems that the countries that receive our aid face. Whilst we are worried about our economic recovery, there are countries that could only wish for the infrastructure that we have to rebuild.
Cuts to foreign aid are unacceptable. Many in the Conservative party and the rest of the Commons know it and the decision must be reversed quickly. A pledge to return to 0.7% after ‘the fiscal situation allows’ is not good enough. The subjective nature of this commitment just gives the government the ability to decide. This kind of loose-phrasing is easily reversible and we all have a responsibility to pressure the government. Foreign aid is essential for millions of people, reverse the decision and do it before it is too late.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Fletcher Kipps
Point of Information
The cuts to foreign aid are unfortunate but necessary – A Conservative Response
Cuts to foreign aid are an unfortunate necessity to our situation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has been forced to spend millions of pounds on support programs. These were certainly needed to maintain families during the crisis, and even furlough is continuing after restrictions end. This is compounded by the fact that most of the economy had to shut down for many months, meaning income from taxes is much lower (not to ignore the day-to-day economic pain felt by millions).
The government must recoup this money somehow, in order to stabilise the country’s finances. Our economy does need rebuilding, and millions are still struggling due to the economic effects of COVID. The government cannot be seen to be cutting programs at home whilst leaving foreign aid untouched. The British government must put British citizens first. That, along with defence, is one of the prime functions of the state. While moral implications are important in a foreign context, they are even more important in a domestic one.
Another thing to note is where foreign aid goes. Fletcher’s article ignores the glaring problems with foreign aid. In 2019, the UK spent £70 million in aid to China, and in 2018 this figure was £71 million. This is despite the fact that China is the second-largest economy, and commits numerous human rights offences, such as destroying democracy in Hong Kong and the horrors against the Uyghur Muslim population. Another issue with foreign aid is that billions of pounds of it disappear into tax havens. Both of these examples show that aid doesn’t always go where it should. This is further highlighted in a previous article discussing why foreign aid is a sham.
While foreign aid is an important form of soft power, there are times (like now) where it is acceptable to cut the budget. Domestic concerns must always be put before international ones, especially at times of economic crisis and during its recovery. The British economy is set to recover at a “fast and full” rate, meaning that the cut can be reversed after a short spell at 0.5%. No doubt this recovery would be slower if the cut was not made.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Unfair and Immoral – A Labour Response
I completely agree with Fletcher here. Cutting foreign aid is an unnecessary and unfair move. Disadvantaged people abroad will suffer as a result but because it’s not a domestic concern it’s only “unfortunate”? It is far more than just unfortunate; it is fundamentally immoral.
Why is it that the government always cuts something around the same time that it also proposes some outlandish patriotic declaration? The last time I wrote on a similar topic, the government was refusing to feed hungry children whilst simultaneously increasing military spending and committing £120 million to a festival of Brexit.
Now, the government has proposed a £200 million ‘Royal Yacht Britannia’. It’s frustrating that there’s always money available for symbolic gestures that do actual living people no good, yet money that might have served to improve people’s lives even the tiniest bit is always at threat of being taken away.
In response to what Kieran said about foreign aid often being distributed to the wrong areas, there is truth to what he is saying. However, this is more of an argument to reform the foreign aid budget rather than cut it. Cutting the budget helps no one. Whereas, if the foreign aid process was revisited with the aim of focusing the money on the people that need it most, it decreases the opportunity for corruption. Nonetheless, there is no sense in reducing the amount we give when we can so blatantly afford it.
We have to remember that this move may lead to deaths. This is not just a small move with small ramifications. In total, this 0.2% cut will make a difference of around £4 billion, something which David Davis admitted would lead to the loss of life in more deprived areas of the world. Nothing about that is necessary.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Jack Rolfe