There is little hope for a swift return to 0.7 per cent foreign aid target
The Prime Minister has long been an advocate for ensuring twelve years of quality education for girls across the world. The aid cuts will make attaining that goal impossible.
The cut of the foreign aid budget from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent doesn’t seem much, does it? But the passage of the motion through Parliament will have devastating consequences for the world’s poor and vulnerable that will last far longer than the cuts themselves.
In simple terms, it is equivalent to a £4 billion decrease.
This means that aid to Syria, a country torn apart by a decade of civil war, will fall by 50 per cent. Yemen, where there are four million displaced people and the threat of famine looms, will receive 60 per cent less, and money allocated to Afghanistan will decrease by 80 per cent.
Important projects will have their funding cut part way through. For example, funding to Nigeria’s malaria programme, due to continue to 2024, will be severely diminished. Meanwhile, some projects will become unviable as a result of a pause in funding. That was the warning of a project lead in India, who was working on tracking virus variants at a coronavirus research centre.
This is a clear warning that foreign aid benefits the UK’s health and security and that the cuts are an act of national self-harm.
Time will tell how long the aid cuts will persist, but the damage they cause will be permanent
Furthermore, the aid cuts threaten the attainment of international policy objectives.
The Prime Minister has long been an advocate for women’s rights across the world and is particularly enthusiastic about ensuring twelve years of quality education for girls. The aid cuts will make attaining that goal impossible. There will be a direct cut to girls’ education programmes in the developing world by 25 per cent. That means that the UK will support 700,000 fewer girls from 2019 to 2022 than it did from 2015 to 2018.
The scarcity of other forms of aid will require families in developing countries to prioritise which of their children will benefit from aid. This will usually be the eldest boys, and, as is all too common, some girls will be married off early to ensure the economic viability of the family.
An 85 per cent cut to the UK’s contribution to the United Nations Population Fund, which supports maternal and reproductive health, will mean that these girls will become pregnant early, damaging their ability to learn and become economically active. Their babies may suffer from malnutrition, permanently affecting their learning and development.
The aid cuts will harm the poor and vulnerable at every stage of life.
The motion stated that the aid budget will return to normal levels when “the independent Office for Budget Responsibility’s fiscal forecast confirms that, on a sustainable basis, we are not borrowing for day-to-day spending and underlying debt is falling”. This statement sounds promising, but when it is considered that these criteria would last have been met in 2001, there is little hope for a swift return to 0.7 per cent.
Indeed, The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that these conditions will not be satisfied until 2024 at the earliest. Time will tell how long the aid cuts will persist, but the damage they cause will be permanent.
Pauline Latham is the Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire.
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