Budget 2013: Watch out for budgetary backtracking on aid

Supporters of international development should watch this week’s budget announcement very carefully. As is so often the case, what is missing from the chancellor’s announcement could tell us as much as what is included about where the Coalition’s priorities lie.

Charlie Samuda is Labour Campaign for International Development’s Vice Chair, Communications and Campaigning

Supporters of international development should watch this week’s budget announcement very carefully. Overseas aid and the role of DFID are not usually at the forefront of a Chancellor’s mind when delivering a budget – personal taxation, welfare and big capital spending projects tend to get all the attention.

But just because the budget is usually domestically focused doesn’t mean that Wednesday’s announcement won’t have a big impact on Britain’s progress towards tackling global economic injustice.

As is so often the case, what is missing from the chancellor’s announcement could tell us as much as what is included about where the Coalition’s priorities lie.

The first, and most obvious, signal of the government’s intention towards international development will be whether overseas aid (a sub-set of DFID’s budget) remains ring-fenced from spending cuts alongside areas like the NHS.

To date Cameron and Osborne have held firm against backbenchers, donors and even (so it is said) their own DFID minister against slashing the relatively small proportion of UK GDP spent on aid.

However the chancellor is clearly under pressure to appease a growing chorus of disapproval over the ring-fencing of specific budgets. Recently Cameron ducked the opportunity to back a Labour proposal to enforce the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent in law.

Given that several of last year’s budget announcements were reversed soon after the omnishambles, nothing should be taken for granted.

Even with the aid ring-fence in place it must not be forgotten that Labour’s previous commitment to bring to UK up to 0.7 per cent – which we hope will be met in this budget – now represents a far smaller level of aid spending in absolute terms given the Coalition’s inability to restore economic growth after three years in office.

Some of the world’s poorest people are now paying a price for the government’s economic policy.

There are other ways that UK’s international aid commitment could be watered down.

The second area to watch out for is whether DIFD spending is stretched to cover peacekeeping activities normally covered by the MoD. Last month Cameron hinted that aid spending should be diverted into the ‘conflict pool’ – something the Labour Campaign for International Development has covered previously.

Such diversion of aid spending obviously takes away funds from other projects and reduces the impact of DFID at a time when it has already come under heavy cuts that impact its effectiveness.

Of equal concern is the fact that mixing up development and peace-keeping spending undermines Britain’s leading role on international development by militarising our overseas aid. Therefore whilst the ring-fencing commitment may be met in nominal terms there is the risk that there may be less to this than meets the eye.

Finally, it will be a missed opportunity if this budget does not at least hint at long-term vision for the UK’s geo-political and economic role. This is, after all, not only a year in which Britain will chair the G8 but also a year in which David Cameron will lead the effort to design the next generation of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Rather than just talking about Britain’s role on the world’s stage, the chancellor could set a real level of ambition about what the world economy could look like beyond 2015, when the current MDGs expire.

A short-term re-hash of austerity economics from this budget, without a thought to Britain’s place in the world would represent a tragically missed opportunity.

It would be ungenerous to the chancellor to assume the worst before he has delivered his budget statement. The government has at least kept up the commitment to 0.7 per cent so far which is to be welcomed.

However under a Labour government, the UK’s hard won reputation for leadership on international development involved not just a commitment from the DFID Secretary but also a firm basis in the UK’s economic policy, something that can only come from the chancellor.

With this in mind, those of us watching Wednesday’s Budget who believe in development should be very careful to read between the lines.

13 Responses to “Budget 2013: Watch out for budgetary backtracking on aid”

  1. Mick

    Foreign Aid is supposed to help the poor.

    Right, splendid. Jolly good. The Left complain about a mushrooming collection of paupers springing up under David Cameron, with that silly TUC woman even saying he was taking us back to Victorian times!

    Nice ringfenced aid programme? There’s plenty to spend it on here I gather! Islamonuts in Egypt and nuclear-equipped India have had more than enough by now, especially as India has its OWN aid programme anyway.

    And the Left should agree. British Jobs For British Workers was originally a socialist slogan, though in this case it’s British cash.

  2. Newsbot9

    Ah yes, poverty denial. Since India spends on something not-poverty, there is no poverty in India. Same reasoning for poverty denial here.

    You keep on attacking the poor in your Jihad. And of course you want to pervert things so that you can skim the aid budget.

  3. Mick

    And good old Newsbot strikes again; well, flails about with his smears and bombast.

    Spending on your own poor isn’t an attack on the Indian poor. Plus, if the Indian government have their own space, nuclear and aid programmes, then they can be told to aid their own poor instead of splurging on frivolity.

    The Left can go and sit on a spike if they declare that we must take care of the world’s poor of their own governments can’t be bothered. Poor little Newsbot.

  4. Newsbot9

    Nope, I’m not you. You insist I share your flaws again.

    Poverty denial, that’s you. Of course you don’t believe in, why, you’d need to think about the poor and of course you want to kill the left.

  5. Mick

    Where did I deny both Indians and British people could be poor?

  6. Newsbot9

    In your post, right there.

  7. Mick

    Quote me.

    Ah but you can’t because I never said I deny people are poor.

  8. Newsbot9

    Thanks for your permission.

    And you’ve said it multiple times.

  9. Mick

    Well quote me then.

  10. Newsbot9

    I have. Oh. not here, but you were not specific. PS, do try reading what I type sometime. Poverty and Poor are not the same thing.

  11. Mick

    Ah, so Newsbot has nothing to quote.

    Newsbot’s king of the smear anyway, like when he called me a murderer in the ‘LIMITING FOREIGN STUDENTS WILL DAMAGE THE UK’ comments, or that I atack people until they’re bloody on the GREENS PROVE THEY ARE AN ALTERNATIVE TO LABOUR page.

  12. Newsbot9

    Yes, you’ve repeatedly called for murdering the poor, and curb-stomping them. Keep claiming your posts don’t exist, though.

  13. Mick

    Spamtime is funtime as Newsbot proudly presents it.

    As he will do again….

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