Facing a December deadline to hit the aid target set by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the DfID (Department for International Development) realised it faced a £1 billion underspend and embarked on a prodigious spending spree during the last weeks of 2014.
As the National Audit Office pointed out: “The requirement to hit, but not significantly exceed, aid spending equivalent to 0.7 per cent of gross national income every calendar year means the department has to hit a fairly narrow target against a background of considerable uncertainty.” Nevertheless, it suggests a ‘use it or lose it’ mentality that does not inspire public confidence. Under such circumstances, can we really be sure that the money is spent on the most deserving causes and in the best interests of the taxpayer?
At this moment, a private member’s bill is winding its way through Parliament enshrining in law this commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our annual income on international aid. In the light of what happened at the end of last year, the wisdom of making it legally binding must be questioned.
Spending 0.7 per cent of gross national product on aid is an incredibly generous commitment, especially when you consider that the money is effectively either borrowed from the markets at interest or confiscated from taxpayers without their consent. Or both.