Sir Tony Baldry writes to Secretary of State for International Development to emphasise the importance of the UK’s aid budget
18 September 2012
In recent weeks the UK’s aid budget seems to have been subject to a fair amount of criticism.
Having had responsibility for overseas development as a Minister during part of the Major Government and as a former Chair of the Select Committee on International Development I should like to share my own views on development aid.
The UK Government is on track to reach its 0.7% commitment by 2013.
This is a target of international development agreed by the international community.
It is a target which all three of the main political parties including the Conservative Party clearly committed in the 2010 General Election to reaching. The UK is the only G7 country on track to reach this target.
It is an achievement for which this Government and the United Kingdom should be congratulated not criticised.
Development aid has made an invaluable contribution to transforming and improving the lives of millions of people across the developing world.
It has helped reduce the number of children who die before their fifth birthday by 4 million since 1990 and the number of people receiving HIV medication has also increased tenfold as a result of aid assistance.
Aid spending has also had a significant impact on achieving many of the Millennium Development Goals to the benefit of millions of the world’s poorest families and children. Yet challenges remain.
Aid contributes to economic growth by giving millions more children an education: so far it has put 33 million more children in the classroom. In doing so, these children have been given opportunities they would not otherwise have had.
Money from DFID also helps build the necessary infrastructure to support this economic growth such as transport networks. In 2012-15, DFID will also help 77.6 million people access formal financial services
Aid doesn’t feed corruption, it helps fight it.
By paying the salaries of policemen and judges in Africa, strengthening the free press and helping ordinary people in poor countries to hold their governments to account, aid plays a key role in strengthening and enhancing good governance.
Ensuring aid goes to the right people is imperative.
Whilst aid money can sometimes be misspent, this should not be used as a reason for aid spending to be cut altogether.
Rather, lessons can be learnt and the process of aid provision improved and weaknesses overcome.
The poorest people in the world should not be made to pay the price for corruption in the corridors of power.
Only 1.6 pence per £1 of UK Government spending goes towards saving lives and helping people in the developing world. Aid spending is good value. Of course there should be total accountability and of course there should be transparency but sweeping dismissals of development aid are irresponsible and risk cutting support that provides a lifeline to millions.
Sir Tony Baldry