UK vows to restore foreign aid budget after cuts

AFP News Agency

27th Oct, 2021. 08:19 pm

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak poses with the Budget Box as he leaves 11 Downing Street in central London on October 27, 2021 to present the government’s annual budget to Parliament. Photo: AFP

LONDON: The UK government, after triggering an outcry by cutting its foreign aid budget, vowed to restore the funding in the coming years ahead of a UN climate summit where help for poorer countries will be pivotal.

Presenting his budget for the next fiscal year, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak said that the aid figure would return to 0.7 per cent of the gross national income, after he cut it to 0.5 per cent.

“Some people said this was a trick or a device,” he said, decrying critics who had accused him of dishonesty when he said previously that the cuts would be temporary.

“Our improving fiscal situation means we will meet our obligations to the world’s poorest,” Sunak said.

“And based on the tests, I set out, today’s forecasts show that we are, in fact, scheduled to return to 0.7 per cent in 2024/25, before the end of this parliament.”

The government has said it needed to suspend the legal obligation to spend 0.7 per cent of income on foreign aid to help rein in public borrowing, which has ballooned to wartime levels during the coronavirus pandemic.

The campaigners and some Conservative rebels accused the government of endangering lives in the poorest countries, as well as reneging on its 2019 election promise to maintain the budget.

Activists also warned that the cuts would leave Britain without leverage at the COP26 UN summit starting next week in Glasgow, given the need to persuade developing nations such as India to do more on climate change.

Ed Miliband, business spokesman for the opposition Labour party, earlier Wednesday attacked Prime Minister Boris Johnson for sending the wrong message ahead of COP26 by cutting the aid budget.