How a reduction in British budget aid will deplete a global Covid-19 disaster

The pandemic caused the worst developmental disaster in our lives. This is why Britain needs to increase foreign aid – and not break it down – and alleviate the crippling debt of poor countries

Britain plans to cut billions from its overseas aid budget next year. There would be a worse time to cut the UK aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of national revenue.

In practice, this will mean a reduction by a third, as the UK economy is expected to contract by 11% by 2020 and aid will be calculated as part of national income.

The pandemic caused the worst development disaster in our lives, as trade, tourism, migratory money, investment and spending collapsed, and at the same time jobs and income, and only a massive increase in aid will bring about a dramatic turnaround in poverty and derailment. stop the generally agreed Sustainable Development Goals.

The World Bank has already estimated that more than 100 million people will be driven to extreme poverty this year, with the poorest in poor countries being hit the hardest.

The UK had a proud record of being one of the most effective donors, targeting the needy, as well as critical support for achieving global programs such as eradicating malaria and providing affordable vaccinations.

At a time when aid has never been so necessary, cutting aid would be a devastating blow to the many who depend on it. It would also put an end to Britain’s years of international leadership on aid and undermine its ability to build coalitions of donors to meet critical challenges.

UK ideas and financial leverage have contributed to many of the most successful breakthroughs in the development of recent decades, including infectious diseases, malaria, girls’ education and poverty reduction.

At a time when the world is watching Britain take on the challenge of Brexit, and whether it can contribute to solving critical global challenges, it will be a sign of collapse in our moral commitment and operational capability, which ‘ a mockery of the prime minister’s claim that Brexit will allow a reviving global Britain.

A cut in aid coupled with the already promised equivalent rise in military spending would confirm the view that we are returning to an excessive reliance on hard power, boosting our global position among countries that care more about humanitarian aid and development aid, undermine. Britain.

This cut would undermine the historic opportunity for British leadership hosted in 2021 by the G7 presidency and the COP26 climate summit.

In the wake of the Covid-19, it could provide an opportunity to restore and resurrect global collaboration to create a more sustainable and inclusive world. It is essential to prevent future pandemics and address other critical shared challenges, including those arising from climate change and the increasing protectionism and nationalism, which particularly threaten poor people and poor countries.

The argument that money is needed at home cannot exist. The rich countries have found for themselves more than $ 12 billion, of which less than 1% is allocated to development needs. In the UK, the loan price this year is more than £ 300 billion, which makes sense at record low interest rates. Even the IMF recommends more loans than austerity for rich countries.

It would be a pitiful reflection of the priorities of the British Government if it caused the poorest in the world to pay the price of an ideological decision not to collect further debt, or to raise taxes on the rich, especially if they saw unprecedented multiple gains from the rising stock markets, while it found the funds to give the military the biggest boost since the Cold War.

Poor countries have no options as they can borrow nothing on the scale of what is needed to sustain their citizens without engaging in an economic crisis.

Nor can they raise taxes on their dying economies to raise the income they urgently need. They depend on reducing their debt payments to free up financing to meet urgently needed household needs, as well as for the international distribution of vaccines, all of which need more help.

This is far from withdrawal, but it is a time to sharpen the commitment to development. Britain must, as in the past, work with others to develop a multilateral debt reduction package to reduce the crippling debt facing poor countries, as it must overcome the overarching vaccine nationalism and the urgent humanitarian needs of developing countries. support.

Well-intentioned help is the difference between life and death for poor people. At a time when we have shown greater solidarity in our countries, we must show more support for poor countries, not less.

The proposed £ 5bn reduction in aid would have wrinkles that go beyond the current time. This will show that the government, despite the declarations and manifesto obligations, is willing to sacrifice its support to poor people in poor countries on the altar of austerity.

Introduced as a temporary cut will become a permanent stain on the government, undermining its credibility, humanity and leadership at home and internationally.

Any opinions expressed in this opinion piece are from the author and not from the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Ian Goldin is Professor of Globalization and Development at the University of Oxford and co-author of Terra Incognita: 100 Maps to Survive the Next 100 Years and Development.


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