Britain saves overseas aid from cuts, focuses on war zones

20th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain confirmed Wednesday that overseas aid would be exempt from sweeping budget cuts but said resources would be refocused towards unstable states such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The aid budget will be increased from 0.56 percent of national income this year to 0.7 percent by 2013, fulfilling Britain's commitment under UN development goals, the Department for International Development (DfID) said.

But aid will be reallocated towards fragile and war-torn countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, and taken out of China and Russia. DfID's administrative costs will also be cut by one third in the next four years.

The changes were unveiled by Prime Minister David Cameron's coalition government as it announced widespread cuts in public spending, aimed at paying off Britain's record budget deficit.

"The Department for International Development's budget will rise to 11.5 billion pounds (13 billion euros, 18 billion dollars) over the next four years," Finance Minister George Osborne told lawmakers.

The department later said that "in order to focus aid where it is needed most, DfID will end bilateral aid to China and Russia". In 2008-09, Britain gave China more than 40 million pounds and Russia received 190,000 pounds.

It also vowed to "improve the impact of British development in conflict countries, including through more integrated working across government, and with a particular focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan".

In 2009-10, Britain spent 140 million pounds in aid for Pakistan, and DfID has committed more than 700 million to Afghanistan over the next four years.

Under a defence review published Tuesday, the government said it would boost the proportion of overseas development aid that supports fragile and war-torn countries from 22 percent to 30 percent.

Aid agencies welcomed Britain's commitment to development spending but expressed concern that the new priorities could harm poor but peaceful states.

"David Cameron and George Osborne deserve real credit for their promise to stick to Britain's aid promises during these difficult economic times," said Oxfam's campaign and policy director, Phil Bloomer.

He added: "The government needs to ensure that its increased focus on fragile states does not penalise poor people elsewhere."

© 2010 AFP

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