In the budget on Wednesday the Chancellor has the opportunity to maintain unequivocally the Coalition’s pledge to protect the Aid budget and to resist backbench Tory and Right wing newspaper pressures to re- direct aid spending to other Departments, such as the MOD.
The reality is that, in order to fulfil commitments to meeting the UN 0.7 % of GNP target clearly made by the Coalition, George Osborne has to increase the aid budget from £8.6 bn in 2011 to £11.3bn in 2014 and spending over the next year is obviously essential to that.
He has the chance now to ensure that the Government will keep the 43 year old promise to deliver levels of aid which are capable of laying the foundations that are needed for resolute, sustained action against global hunger, chronic poverty, illiteracy and ill health.
Naturally, NGOs are urging the Chancellor to do the honourable thing and stand firm on O.7%. In addition,in recent weeks, he has also heard persuasive and positive arguments from 100 leading economists and from CEOs of the UK’s biggest companies who wrote to the Financial Times to emphasise the continuing need for the Government to fulfil the 0.7% undertaking. The case which they and Ivan Lewis – the Shadow Secretary of State for International Development – make is that aid demonstrably works. For instance, since the Gleneagles G8 Summit in 2005 and the Make Poverty History Campaign, child mortality is down by 18% and 21 million more children are in school in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are many remarkable stories of success that should be told to prove that real progress can be made relatively quickly. We know, for example, that the leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown at that Gleneagles Summit led to an extra £7 billion in development aid going to Sub Saharan Africa and the agreement on debt relief they secured wiped out £22 billion of debt burdens of developing countries.
Labour Governments between 1997 and 2010 kept their promises to combat World poverty and under-development. We urge the Coalition to stand by theirs, especially when the 0.7 of GDP is now smaller in real money terms than anticipated in 2010 because of the way in which Coalition’s economic policies have brought stagnation and when fulfilling the 0.7% promise means an allocation of just 1.6 pence in every pound of our national income and not the vast amounts which some in the press and politics would have the public believe.
In addition to fulfilling aid promises, the Chancellor must also spell out what steps he will take to ensure that companies pay the taxes they owe on the income they gain from operations in developing countries. The IF campaign makes a compelling case for ensuring that tax dodgers are dealt with effectively so that the revenue due can be collected in the UK and in the developing world and used on promoting growth and strengthening social provision.
George Osborne must grasp the opportunity of his Budget Statement to make a real difference to millions of lives – not least because the UK could lead by example at the G8 which, this year, meets under the Chairmanship of David Cameron. Lets hope they will both do the right thing for Britain and for the World.