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Foreign aid should advance UK’s commercial interests
February 12, 2019
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LONDON: Boris Johnson has backed calls for a huge de-facto cut in the foreign aid budget, saying the money should be spent in the UK’s “political and commercial interests”.

The £13.4bn pot should fund all peacekeeping work and world service broadcasting, a controversial report says – diverting much of its cash to the Ministry of Defence and the BBC.

And the aid target, enforced in law at 0.7 per cent of gross national income, should be reworked for the UK government’s own policy aims, beyond economic development in poor countries.

Mr Johnson threw his weight behind the proposals, put forward in a pamphlet by a backbench Tory MP, saying they “are hard to disagree with”.

“We could make sure that 0.7 per cent – a huge sum of money – was spent more in line with Britain’s political, commercial and diplomatic interests,” he said.

The comments were strongly criticised by aid campaigners, Save The Children warning the UK was in danger of losing “its status as an international development superpower”.

It was “a role that both secures the UK’s seat at the world’s top tables and is saving and transforming children’s lives in some of the poorest places on earth”, said Kevin Watkins, the organisation’s chief executive.

Laura Taylor, Christian Aid’s head of global advocacy, said: “The concept of giving aid in the national interest is both flawed and immoral.

“Evidence shows that aid is far less likely to be effective if donors put their own priorities, or the interests of big business and private finance, ahead of the needs of the countries and people who should benefit from that aid.”

Mr Johnson pointed to his anger when, after Hurricane Irma devastated the British Virgin islands in 2017, UK aid cash could not be used to rebuild lives there.

The Independent

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