Top Story of the Week: Praise and Criticism Greet UK Foreign Aid Budget Increase

The U.K. will be increasing its foreign aid budget to USD11.5 billion (USD18.5 billion) over the next four years, the government has announced as part of the its sweeping spending review for the years 2011-2014. The move has drawn both cheers and jeers both internationally and domestically.

Non-governmental organizations welcomed the U.K. coalition government’s decision, with at least one group saying that it was the “right thing” to do. But NGOs are not entirely pleased with the move, particularly the manner in which the government plans to spend the money over the next four years. Several members of the international and local development community have raised concern over the U.K. government’s plan to double its aid to fragile and conflict-afflicted countries. Aid money should go toward poor nations rather than countries that present a security threat, one aid group says.

Aside from increased support for fragile states, the Department for International Development said it will focus on combating malaria, improving child and maternal health, promoting economic growth and wealth creation, and supporting climate change adaptation and low carbon growth.

Meanwhile, one expert has noted that the increase in the country’s foreign aid budget could actually hurt DfID as it may be pressured into delivering quick and measurable results instead of focusing on making long-lasting impact.

Other experts warned that DfID’s performance will be inevitably be affected since it will be forced to cut jobs. DfID’s administrative budget was not exempted from the spending cuts announced by U.K. Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne.

“It’s going to have more money, tougher challenges to deal with, but fewer people. Something has to give,” an expert noted while suggesting that the U.K. instead partner with other donors or channel aid through multilateral organizations.

Domestically, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell have been busy defending the increase in the foreign aid budget to the U.K. public. The two have explained that the U.K. has a moral obligation to help poorer countries and that assisting these countries is also for the U.K.’s national interest.

Mitchell has repeatedly emphasized the coalition government’s commitment to efficiency and effectiveness. He is leading a review of U.K. bilateral and multilateral aid in a bid to refocus U.K. aid toward projects that deliver the best value for money.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.