Should Britain continue its controversial £1bln India aid package?
The UK will continue to send more than £1 billion to India over the next four years, despite huge cuts to government spending under London’s Conservative-led coalition government and soaring economic growth in the Asian giant.
Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s international development secretary, told the Financial Times on Monday that Britain’s annual £280 million aid payments to India would not be reduced, in spite of the country’s space ambitions, nuclear energy development, soaring numbers of billionaires and its own aid program to many African nations.
Mitchell’s comments, a day before an official announcement, are likely to infuriate some UK MPs who have seen spending slashed in their constituencies, and those who have called for a reduction in overseas payments as British taxpayers brace for a period of tough austerity measures.
In September, suggestions from Westminster that aid may be reduced sparked a terse response from New Delhi, as Indian officials reportedly mulled rejecting UK support rather than waiting for London to decide whether its slice of the pie would shrink.
British newspapers have questioned financial assistance for a country whose economy is growing at over 8.5 percent with a $31.5 billion defence budget and ambitions to join the U.N. Security Council. Permanent Security Council members Russia and China were told by London last year that continuing to supply aid to them was “not justifiable”.
Yet despite its booming economy and global power aspirations, India still accounts for a large proportion of the world’s poorest people, presenting international donors with a quandary.
“India has more poor people in it than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. If you’re going to achieve the [UN] millennium development goals, you have to make big progress in India,” Mitchell told the Financial Times.
But should India need cash from British taxpayers to protect the poorest in its society, and could the UK’s overseas aid be better spent elsewhere?