Britain’s aid spending is to be overhauled to reflect the core conservative values of value for money, wealth creation and investment, the government’s new International Development Secretary Priti Patel has said.
Despite that, the budget will remain ring-fenced at 0.7 percent of British GDP.
In an article for the Daily Mail, Patel underscored her conservative approach to her new role, writing: “The aid budget isn’t my money, or the Government’s money. It’s taxpayers’ money – your money. We politicians have a duty to spend it well, in ways that not only help the world’s poorest, but also help us here at home.
“My approach will be built on some core Conservative principles: that the way to end poverty is wealth creation, not aid dependency; that wealth is ultimately created by people, not by the state; that poor countries need more investment and trade, not less; and that we need to empower the poorest to work and trade their way out of poverty, not treat them as passive recipients of our support.”
Although her manifesto is likely to gain the support of her colleagues, particularly its focus on using aid cash to boost trade post-Brexit, cutting off the money supply to the EU, which has been accused of profligate aid spending, and focussing resources with a view to cutting mass migration, the size of the budget is still in dispute.
Ms Patel confirmed that the amount will remain fixed at 0.7 percent of GDP – around £12 billion this year – as it is a legislated figure, meaning that Britain is on track to spend more on foreign aid than on local government next year.
Listing some of the successes achieved through British government aid, such as the saving of six million lives through anti-Malaria initiatives, Patel highlights the natural generosity of the British people – but warns they want to see value for money too.
“When people see aid being used properly, they support it,” she said. “The British people are incredibly generous – just look at our response to Comic Relief or the support that has been given to the Disasters Emergency Committee over the years.
But, she adds, “It rightly infuriates taxpayers when money that is intended for the world’s poorest people is stolen or wasted on inappropriate projects. I am infuriated.”
Earlier this week it emerged that a leader within the Black Lives Matter UK movement has been funded through the British aid budget. Her organisation received at least £50,000 to to devise and run courses in “race awareness” and “gender-sensitive governance” through the DfID’s “gender hub programme”.
A source close to Patel said she was angry by the revelation, and was “demanding to know why the courses were ever commissioned in the first place”.
Patel now hopes to seize the opportunities created by Britain’s exit from the European Union to use the budget instead to build new trade partners, and insists:“A well-financed aid budget is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Its purpose is not to make us feel good about ourselves.
“It is there to deliver tangible results for the world’s poorest people, helping them stand on their own two feet so they don’t need aid in the future – and in so doing, build a safer, more prosperous world for the UK.”
Patel once called for the department to be scrapped completely. But now she says she believes “passionately in the mission of the department that I now run: to end extreme poverty forever, to spread prosperity, and, as a result, to build a safer world for us here in the UK.”
“As Secretary of State for International Development, my objective will be to challenge and change the global aid system so that it properly serves the poorest people in the world and the taxpayers who foot the bill”.