With the current state of the UK economy much has been said on the sense of making foreign aid payments to some countries such as India who has its own external aid programme as well as a space programme. The usual call for charity begins at home (whatever that means).

But while many may want to see a reduction in the outflow of money from this country the recently conducted UK aid review has not resulted in any significant cut to the overall budget. It has instead ended up by refocussing the aid to ensure it is well spent and properly targeted.

There were two prongs to this review, one to cover bilateral aid (that aid we give to one country) and multilateral aid programmes.

On the bilateral aid side what we have done is to reduce the number of countries we give aid to by a third from 43 down to 27 with two fundamental foundations. One to reduce the scope of the Department of International Development's (DfID) remit and also to allocate aid more productively.

With multilateral aid Britain will save £50 million according to the Guardian by cutting discretionary payments to multilateral organisations as follows:

  • By withdrawing from the UN Industrial Development Organisation
  • Stopping voluntary core funding to UN Habitat, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) (which horrified the Labour party) and the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

In the face of Labour criticism of the decision to cut payments to the ILO the international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said "The decision on the ILO was a recommendation from the multilateral aid review. It says in the professional analysis that the ILO has a wide range of organisational weaknesses, including weak cost control and results reporting and limited transparency."

Mr Mitchell also said that it was based on value for money, " … taking a radically different approach to aid. We want to be judged on our results, not on how much money we are spending" he said.

Some of the losers here are Russia, Serbia, China, Vietnam and Cambodia as well as Burundi and Niger (two of the world's poorest countries).

But the £280 million aid programme to India will be frozen at current levels for the next four years because, said Mr Mitchell, the country is a 'development paradox' with 450 million of its population living on less than 50p a day.

But Yemen, being viewed as a potential hot-bed  for al-Qaida recruitment, will have their budget almost doubled from £46.7 million to £90 million in the next 3-4 years. This sort of decision has led many to say this is almost a security led review. Other winners include Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Jonathan Glennie blogging over at the Overseas Development Institute website gives a mixed response to the review saying that in his view cutting the number of countries to focus on is a good thing and that it may result in making foreign aid easier for the government to sell to the public. But then goes on to criticise the seeming lack of basing aid around the Paris Agenda for Aid Effectiveness (that donors 'coordinate their aid around recipient country-led priorities').

He goes on to say that 'At some point, it may be necessary to engage in communicating the complex reality of development to the British public, rather than pandering to simplistic understandings. It is a shame, then, that, according to what I have been told, the development education budget has been cut'.

According to his piece continuing aid was based of three criteria: development need, the likely effectiveness of assistance and lastly the strategic fit with UK government priorities.

And there was me thinking that aid just went to the poorest and most needy. The Good Samaritan never asked "what's in it for me?' did he?

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