Earlier this week, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell MP announced that a Conservative Government would end aid to Russia and instead focus on supporting the world’s poorest countries. This follows an announcement last year that a Conservative Government would also end aid to China.
Addressing the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Mitchell said: “Today, Labour are giving aid to more than 100 different countries. That is more than half the countries in the world. Too many of these are the wrong countries. Under a Conservative Government, that will change. We will only give aid to the countries that really need it.”
So, should the UK continue giving aid to emerging economies?
Many argue that such countries should no longer receive development assistance since they are now technically wealthy enough to look after the needs of their own population. The reality however, is often quite different. Because a country’s GDP is growing we should not automatically assume that all citizens are benefiting equally from the increased prosperity.
This point was highlighted during RESULTS’ recent Parliamentary Delegation to India (see earlier posts). Despite India’s strong economic growth, 42% of the population live in poverty. In absolute numbers, India has more poor people than anywhere in the world – more than in all African countries combined. It is therefore no accident that DFID’s largest country programme and its largest country office are in India.
Similarly, China’s economy is also growing at a rapid rate but almost 500 million people still live below the international poverty line. In countries like China and Russia, poverty is increasingly concentrated among minority and vulnerable groups.
Achieving RESULTS’ vision of a world free from poverty will require efforts and resources being targeted on poverty reduction rather than political boundaries. When deciding how to disburse the UK’s development budget, our government should not solely base its decision on a country’s GDP. Instead they should look at where on the globe people are living in extreme poverty, suffering from preventable diseases and living without basic services and then use the most appropriate channels available to assist them.