By Tony Winterburn • 23 July 2020 • 9:23
Dominic Raab cuts UK aid- blaming the pandemic. image: Twitter
The government has quietly cut the UK’s foreign aid budget by £2.9 billion (€3.6 billion), blaming the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
THE foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, announced the cuts without fanfare just as MPs left parliament for their summer recess, meaning they could not be immediately scrutinised by parliament. The government insists a “line by line” review of aid projects had prioritised the “40 most vulnerable countries” but aid organisations warned that the cuts were falling at a time of humanitarian crisis. Opposition critics branded the policy as “callous.”
Mr Raab insisted the UK would still meet its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI (gross national income) on aid despite the reductions. Labour MP Sarah Champion, who chairs the Commons International Development Committee, said it was “poor practice” to announce the cuts on the last day before the summer recess – and thus avoid any opportunity for MPs to provide scrutiny.
Mr Raab said in a letter to the chair that the cuts were a reaction “to the potential shrinkage in our economy, and therefore a decrease in the value of the 0.7 per cent commitment.”
“We have identified a £3 billion (€3.6 billion) package of reductions in the government’s planned ODA spend so we can proceed prudently for the remainder of 2020. The package I have agreed with the prime minister maintains our flexibility and enables the government to manage our ODA spend against an uncertain 0.7 per cent position.
“It will see some reductions made now, with arrangements in place to tailor spending further during the remaining months as we start to gain a clearer economic picture.”
Mr Raab’s announcement comes just weeks after Boris Johnson’s controversial decision to axe the International Development Department (DFID) and merge it with Mr Raab’s Foreign Office. The foreign secretary revealed the reduced aid spending in a letter to Labour MP Sarah Champion, who chairs the soon-to-be-axed International Development Select Committee of MPs.
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