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More than £4bn of the UK’s foreign aid budget spent in Britain

Updated: Apr 12


According to analysts, the United Kingdom is now spending more of its international development budget at home than in poor countries.

According to the Centre for Global Development, a large portion is spent on housing refugees, primarily from Ukraine (CGD).

When he was chancellor, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak cut the foreign aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of national income, setting a precedent for allowing the Home Office and other departments to use the pot and bending the rules on what can be considered aid.

The UK spends about £11 billion on international assistance, of which about £4 billion goes to multilateral organizations like the World Bank.

According to CGD's analysis, more than half of the remaining £7 billion, which is under UK control, will be used domestically this year, including £3 billion for housing refugees.

The UK is one of only a few nations — and the only one in the G7 — to fund all of the costs of Ukrainian refugees from its aid budget, the Washington and London-based think tank said. The UK is permitted to count refugee-hosting costs as official development assistance (ODA) under internationally agreed rules.

The development budget, the sum of money set aside to aid the world's poorest people, is being squeezed from every direction, according to Ranil Dissanayake, a policy fellow at CGD.

Not only was it reduced by almost a third, but as chancellor, Rishi Sunak also established a precedent by allowing other departments to take whatever they could from this pot.

"Saying we spend 0.5% of our national income on aid is becoming meaningless when such a huge portion of this pot is being spent domestically, instead of helping people facing enormous hardship throughout the world,"

Andrew Mitchell, a Conservative MP who protested Mr. Sunak's cuts to the aid budget last year, has now been named by the prime minister as the Foreign Office's development minister.

Mr. Mitchell, a former secretary for international development, might put more pressure on Mr. Sunak to keep his promise to reduce international aid spending to 0.7% by 2024–2025.

In order to close a multi-billion-pound fiscal gap, the prime minister is reportedly considering freezing the budget for an additional two years, saving £4 billion annually.

According to Stefan Dercon, professor of economic policy at Oxford University's Blavatnik School of Government, Mr. Mitchell "focused strongly on results for the poor, and value for money — at the moment, the way budgets are handled, they deliver neither."

On Wednesday, he tweeted: "Once we account for all asylum/refugee costs and other spending programs for Ukraine inside the UK, aid is now only 0.3% of GNI (gross national income). That is currently lower than it was prior to 1997.

He cited "[poor] management of accommodation costs in the UK" by the Home Office as the cause and foresaw "more cuts to humanitarian spending for African and Asian crises, and less for those things the UK built a reputation for doing well."

"Across government, there are significant pressures on the 0.5% ODA budget due to the costs of accepting refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine as well as wider migration challenges," a representative of the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office stated. There is no set price because it's impossible to predict how many refugees will arrive at any given time.

"We continue to be one of the largest international aid donors, investing more than £11 billion in aid in 2021, and recent UK aid has gone to those in need in Pakistan and the Horn of Africa."


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