UK aid becoming less focused on world’s poorest – development experts

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UK aid is becoming less targeted at the world’s poorest people, development experts have said.

Data for 2021 shows that the trend of moving money away from the least developed nations has accelerated, according to researchers at the Centre for Global Development (CGD).

The Government slashed the foreign aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of UK national income in 2021, as well as letting departments other than the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) use the pot.

Today, the typical recipient’s income is in line with the average income of the poorest 50% of the world’s people.

A decade ago, the typical recipient’s income came in at around the average for the poorest 30%.

The 2021 statistics also showed that the most drastic cuts to the UK’s bilateral aid hit the least developed and low-income countries, the researchers said.

Funding directed at these 47 nations plummeted by 40%, compared to a 17% drop for upper and middle income countries.

The trend is also being driven by recent governments enabling the Home Office and other departments, which are far less “pro-poor” than the FCDO, to spend more of the aid budget.

Previous analysis showed that spending by the Home Office on hosting refugees in the UK has soared, while bilateral aid to poor nations took a hit.

The FCDO’s share of the budget is not only declining, but the department itself is becoming less poverty-focused, according to the new research.

Ian Mitchell, a senior policy fellow at CGD, said: “Aid makes a bigger difference to peoples’ lives when their incomes are lower.

“But our analysis shows that, based on the latest official data for 2021 — the year in which the government made steep cuts — the trend of moving resources away from world’s poorest countries actually accelerated.

“The Government chose to protect spending on other areas, and failed to protect the world’s poorest countries.”

Mr Mitchell and report co-author Sam Hughes called on development minister Andrew Mitchell to reverse this trend and refocus UK aid on the poorest 40% in the global income distribution.

A Government spokesperson said: “The UK remains one of the largest global aid donors, spending more than £11 billion in aid in 2021, with least developed and other low-income countries accounting for over 50% of the UK’s bilateral country-specific ODA (official development assistance) spend in that same year.

“We remain committed to spending 0.7% of gross national income on ODA once the fiscal situation allows.”

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