Revising Foreign Aid

03/10/2015 03:29 pm ET | Updated May 10, 2015

The UK has passed a bill that enshrines in law its commitment to spend 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on aid every year, making it the first G7 country to meet the UN's 45-year old aid spending target. Originally the bill was faced with much opposition in December of last year from some members of the party and several newspapers. The 0.7% of GNI commitment to foreign aid, which is equal to £0.07 out of every £10 of the taxpayer's money, is £1 billion more than first planned when the coalition made the pledge in 2010. This announcement comes after a report from the House of Commons international development committee stating that spending in such countries is important because many of their citizens are still extremely poor.

The Ipsos-Mori poll conducted by The Mail Online in 2012 showed that only 25% of people in Britain supported spending billions of pounds on foreign aid each year. The same poll also showed that 60% of participants believe the money is wasted. It seems that despite these statistics Mr. Cameron has committed to Britain's wider interests and our 'moral obligation' to assist the poorest parts of the world and their tangible benefits. In the same year however The Mail also reported on instances of aid being wasted, a common criticism by those who oppose foreign aid. One example of wasted foreign aid was Britain's £30 million commitment to China, the world's second largest economy, to plant trees. Another example of wasted foreign aid was the £10 million reported to combat poverty in Uganda that was deposited into private bank accounts.

Of the UK's 13 million people recorded as being in poverty in 2013, who were surviving on less than £15,900 a year, were from working families a charity reported. The same report also claimed that an overall poverty rate of the UK's population was 21%. In the same year the Government pressed ahead with raising foreign aid spending to just above £11.4 billion which would make Britain the first major economy to hit the United Nations target. The BBC broke down the foreign aid budget addressing the top six recipients. It was reported that Ethiopia would be receiving £324 million in aid, equal to £3.82 per person. In second place was India who reportedly set to £284 million, equal to £0.24 per person.

Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, recently announced that "India is the fastest growing economy in world with the GDP growth rate of 7.4%" and said "our effort is to make policies predictable in order to attract investments". India also currently has a £600 million a year space program that has seen it send rockets to Mars to show off its 'technological ability'. The testing of its Geostationary Launch Vehicle [GSLV], which cost £256 million to develop, marked a significant breakthrough in the race to send Indian astronauts into space and eventually make a lunar landing. India is also set to exceed the UK in defense spending a report by the Ministry of Defense outlines. It estimates that India will have a spending power of £425.3 billion by 2045 whilst also estimating that the United Kingdom will have a spending power of £70.24 billion.

In April 2014 it was reported that the Department for International Development (DfID) had given £3.3 billion to twelve organizations. Civil servants judged five of the organizations as offering 'poor' value for money and the other seven, including the European Commission, as 'average'. Peter Bone, a Conservative MP, said that 'the best way to get value for money is to give funds directly to charities and not dole it out to organizations. Aid policy is now based on targets, not need, and that's disappointing'.

An article by The Spectator highlighted that the idea that large donations can remedy poverty has dominated the theory of economic development since the 1950s, but the results where "not so good, actually". More than a quarter of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are poorer now than in 1960, with no sign that foreign aid will end poverty there. It continued to say "the most striking illustration came from Liberia, which has received massive amounts of aid for a decade". In 2011, according to the OECD, official development aid to Liberia totaled £498 million, and made up 73% of its gross national income. But in 2013 all 25,000 students who took an entrance exam to study at the University of Liberia failed.

It is the case that the benefits of foreign aid are evident in themselves and something that we should commit to, but more so we need to ensure that the poorest people in the world receive the aid they need. Child mortality has reduced by a factor of two, and between the years of 1930 and 2010 the number of annual worldwide deaths from Malaria reduced by 80% from 3.8 million to 0.7 million. Milestones are something we should be proud of, but with statistics such as 83% of deaths in children under the age of five in developing countries being as a result of preventable diseases it is clear there is still work to be done. It is also equally clear that a revision to the foreign aid system of investing into development in the poorest countries is essential.