Justine Greening, the International development secretary has declared that the UK government will stop aid to India from 2015. Current projects will continue to be completed as planned, but the UK will make no new aid commitments to india. Instead, the focus will be on skills sharing on areas such as investment and health. These changes will mean Britain spending about £200m less from 2013 to 2015 than had been planned by the former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell (1).
Why the UK government have made the decision to stop aid to India
An aid programe itself can't solve the problems of poverty in India. In addition, setting arbitrary monetary targets can discourage careful planning of projects. The UK government should not be criticised for trying to save tax-payers money, as the budget is ringfenced for aid programmes, and comes through DFID, one of the only UK government departments with a growing budget. Indian finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee said the country no longer wanted or needed the British aid, describing the money as "a peanut in our total development expenditure" (2), indicating that this aid may not be best for India from India's perspective.
This new 'trade not aid' approach to India could be seen as a positive move forward considering that india is one of the worlds fastest growing economies. India has space programmes and a significant defence force. India has great potential in technology and business, and if skills are embraced, India should be given the chance to work itself out of poverty.
Criticism of stopping aid to India
Many charities have criticised this decision, as 1 in 3 malnourished children in the world live in India. Skyscrapers are found next to slums and squalor. Tearfund argue that DFID aid can work in India, and that it could be used for other long term issues, such as tackling corruption and building resilience to disasters.
|Image taken from www.deccanjournal.com|
World Vision has warned that the UK's decision to stop aid to India will put the country's development at risk. Although the Indian economy is growing, World Vision said it would be "no easy task" for the government to lift so many people out of poverty in the short term. David Thompson, head of policy at World Vision, said: “We agree that development aid to India needs to be phased out over the long term.
But the moment nearly half of India’s children under five are stunted by lack of nutritious food. That is more than 60 million children, equivalent to the entire population of the UK." (3)
Save the Children said it believed the decision to end financial aid was "premature". "Despite India's impressive economic progress, 1.6 million children died in India last year - a quarter of all global child deaths," Kitty Arie, its director of advocacy, said.(4)
The decision to cut India's aid has also been criticised by MPs. The Labour MP Keith Vaz said the move would affect India's most vulnerable (5).
The move toward encouraging independence through trade for India has received a great deal of criticism, but could lead to the long term success of India as a whole. It may mean that some of the most vulnerable may suffer in the short term, although sometimes decisions have to be made that result in some suffering, in order to reach sustainability. Only time will tell whether the British government have made the right decision on aid to India, but we must have faith in our goverments expert decisions, as well as consider the bigger economic and political picture. One thing is for sure, aid will need to get smarter if it is to really make a difference, and skills exchange should not completely replace short term disaster relief.
I would welcome your comments and opinions on this blog. Have the UK government made the right decision for India?
1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/nov/09/britain-to-stop-aid-india, accessed [10/11/12: 12:00]
3. http://www.christiantoday.com/article/uk.criticised.over.decision.to.stop.aid.to.india/31018.htm, accessed [10/11/12: 12:05]
4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20265583 accessed [10/11/12: 12:10]
5. http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/nov/09/uk-india-aid-trade, accessed [10/11/12: 12:12]