The ring-fenced U.K. foreign aid budget and ongoing review of projects under the Department for International Development have sparked debates in and out of the country.
The most common points of debate are the wisdom of previous and planned cuts in DfID support for several U.K. aid projects around the world.
John Hilary, executive director of the anti-poverty charity War on Want, argues in an opinion piece published in the Guardian that the current U.K. coalition government’s “fixation on output-based aid” could damage the quality of the country’s international development programs in the long run.
“The output-based approach was designed for contracting out public services to the private sector, and it fails to capture any of the complex development needs of communities struggling against poverty in the long term,” Hillary explains.
Danniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the parliament and writer, slams this argument.
“Hilary would rather see money being spent, as under Labour, on schemes ‘to increase public understanding of the causes of global poverty and to mobilize action in support of international development’ and on ‘anti-poverty initiatives of civil society groups in developing countries,’” Hannan says in a blog in the Telegraph.
“Many of the mega-agencies are now more concerned with lobbying than with building schools or distributing medicines. It is only natural that they should expect DfiD to support them,” he adds.
Meanwhile, several scholars from Africa have called on the U.K. to stop its aid programs in Africa altogether.
“Andrew Mitchell, the Secretary of State for International Development, speaks about a ‘moral imperative’ to combat poverty around the world. We could not agree more. The British have a unique opportunity to cut the deficit and help Africa: please, ask your new government to stop your aid,” the group says in a letter published in the Telegraph and the “Aid Watch” blog.
The group, which includes a newspaper editor, think tank officials and a professor, argue that, instead of providing aid, the U.K. can help Africa in a more effective manner by lifting its Common Agricultural Policy.
“It is that egregious policy, combined with the weight of regulations, bad laws and stifling bureaucracy, subsidized by five decades of development aid, which prevents Africans from lifting themselves out of poverty,” they argue.