UK foreign aid cut ‘undermined efforts to limit Covid damage abroad'

Watchdog’s report leads to new criticism of PM's move to reduce aid spending for world’s poorest

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to slash the foreign aid budget undermined efforts to limit the long-term damage of the coronavirus crisis overseas, an official watchdog said.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact on Thursday said programmes that would have eased the pandemic’s effects had been ended because of the cut.

The watchdog’s report led to new criticism of Mr Johnson's move to reduce aid spending for the world’s poorest from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of gross national income.

Commissioner Sir Hugh Bayley also urged the government to “accelerate” the supply of Covid-19 vaccines to developing countries.

“The UK’s strong initial response to the pandemic, seeking to reduce the severity and length of the crisis, mitigate its long-term damage and deliver cost-effective, long-term development efforts, has been undermined following the decision to reduce the aid spending target to 0.5 per cent of GNI," the commission's review said.

“We have seen evidence of programmes that would have mitigated the long-term damage of the crisis being reduced and good, long-term investments being ended.

“We found evidence in some cases that this had increased the burden on partner countries and other funders, potentially placing vulnerable groups at increased risk.”

“Some funders had stepped in” but the “speed of decision-making did not allow other funders to be enlisted in a considered and structured way”, the report said.

“Looking forward, the reduced aid budget and reduced autonomy for the overseas network within the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office appears likely to reduce the ability of the UK aid programme to respond flexibly to the evolving pandemic.”

Liberal Democrat international development spokeswoman Layla Moran called the cut shameful.

“In our fight against Covid-19, we are not safe until we are all safe,” Ms Moran said.

“Yet by cutting the international development budget, the Conservatives have not only abandoned millions around the world, but have effectively tied one hand behind our back.

“It is shameful that, when the most vulnerable countries of the world needed support, Conservative MPs reneged on their manifesto promises and walked away.

“This report is proof of the disastrous impact the government’s decision will have on our global battle against Covid-19.”

Updated: October 20th 2021, 11:42 PM