The UK economy has plummeted into its deepest recession in recent history, with the coronavirus pandemic and devastating effects of the imposed lockdowns blowing a huge hole in the country’s fragile finances. Britain’s economy suffered its biggest slump on record FROM April to June when it sunk by a massive 20.4 percent – well above the 9.8 percent drop for the 37 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which includes Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the US. Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned the Government is “grappling with something that is unprecedented” and that it was “a very difficult and uncertain time”.
But the UK is continuing to spend billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on foreign aid, and the Government is coming under intense pressure to radically review the system, or even scrap it altogether.
British aid increased to £15.2 million in 2019, up from £14.6 million in 2018. This rise was more than the £493 million (3.5 percent) increase in 2018, but lower than the £652 million (5.1 percent) increase the year before.
Last month, the Government announced Britain will cut its global aid budget by £2.9 billion this year because of damaging economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, adding a review of aid projects has prioritised the most vulnerable countries for assistance.
The Government will still retain its commitment to spending at least 0.7 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) on international aid.
Should foreign aid be scrapped after ‘misuse of taxpayers’ money’?
Boris Johnson and his Government are coming under pressure over the UK’s huge foreign aid budget
At present, the UK is the only G7 country to meet the spending target which was set as a goal by the United Nations in the 1970s.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has confirmed along with the cut in spending, later this year the Government will launch a review to “look at how our aid budget can be used most effectively in our national interest”.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told MPs in the House of Commons: “The coming months will doubtless bring with them a number of financial challenges, so I am writing to update you on the Government’s plans on how we will ensure we continue to meet our 0.7 percent Gross National Income (GNI) spending commitment for Official Development Assistance (ODA).
“Given the likely decrease in the size of the economy this year, the Prime Minister asked me to identify the changes needed to ensure we meet, but do not exceed the 0.7 percent commitment.
READ MORE: Coronavirus map LIVE: Infection rate trebles in Redditch
“As this commitment is based on our GNI, when the economy shrinks, our ODA spend also reduces.”
He added: “This has been a thorough process, and we have been able to ensure that the money we will still spend in 2020 remains prioritised on poverty reduction for the ‘bottom billion’, as well as tackling climate change and reversing biodiversity loss, championing girls education, UK leadership in the global response to COVID-19, and campaigning on issues such as media freedom and freedom of religious belief, thereby ensuring that the UK is a global force for good.”
Most recently, it has been revealed the UK paid a firm £50 million to build classrooms for 120,000 children in Pakistan after being warned the buildings could collapse around them because they were in an earthquake zone (link to story).
The crisis-hit building programme has been slashed to less than 8,000 classrooms, with the cost of each surging from £3,000 to £21,000.
We need to know how the foreign aid budget is spent says EAMONN HOLMES [OPINION]
Britons demand foreign aid budget is slashed as they face tax rises [POLL]
Priti Patel’s outrage at Britain’s ‘wasted foreign aid’ revealed [INSIGHT]
Dominic Raab announced the UK’s foreign aid budget would be slashed this year
Are UK taxpayers contributing too much to the foreign aid budget?
Sarah Champion, chairwoman of the International Development Committee, told The Times: “I do not know of a worse example of aid misspend. It has shocked me to the very core that it went on for so long. This is a scandalous misuse of taxpayers’ money.
“The lack of accountability all the way through — from procurement to health and safety to delivery — was genuinely shocking. Are there other projects like this that are going as catastrophically wrong?
“There were two large failings. One, it seems that civil servants kept the information from ministers. But two, the ministers have known about this and I do not believe that they have got a grip on the scale and the severity of the problem still now.”
China received a staggering £71.6 million in British foreign aid in 2018 – despite Beijing’s economy being five times bigger than Britain’s.
The figures in the Department for International Development’s annual report last month showed some of the eye-watering sums was even used to help set up Chinese firms to compete with British businesses.
Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith lashed out at the report, and questioned why the UK was sending millions to a country which was “breaking every rule in the book”.