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UK spends millions of pounds of aid money at home -paper

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 13 Feb 2014 17:41 GMT
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Aoussa Dicko, a resident of Timbuktu who fled fighting in her hometown last year, sits on the veranda of her new home at a camp for displaced persons outside Bamako, Mali, July 23, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Penney
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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – About eight percent of the 5.4 billion pounds Britain gave in bilateral overseas aid in 2012 was not sent to developing countries but was spent on administering the aid programme and cancelling or rescheduling debts, the Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.

The paper, citing figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said Britain spent almost 48 million pounds of the aid budget on education and immigration services in Britain in 2012 – more than bilateral aid to Rwanda, Liberia and Mali combined - and almost 12 million pounds on projects and campaigns to garner support for overseas development.

Administering the aid programme cost 318 million pounds and cancelling or rescheduling debt 67 million pounds – and more than 300,000 pounds of aid money was spent on global citizenship lessons in Scottish schools, it said.

Under OECD rules – due to be reviewed this year – donor nations can spend bilateral aid at home provided this promotes developing countries’ economic development and welfare. The percentage of bilateral aid spent in the donor country or on debt cancellation in 2012 was about 40 percent for Italy and |Belgium and about eight percent – over 440 million pounds - for Britain.

Greece, however, spent about 90 percent of its bilateral aid in Greece in 2012, mainly on students and asylum seekers, the Guardian reported.

Britain, whose overseas aid budget this year is 11 billion pounds, budgeted for 5.4 billion pounds in bilateral aid in 2012 and handed the rest of that year’s aid funds to multilateral organisations like the United Nations and the World Bank.

The Guardian said its investigation into OECD figures revealed that millions of pounds were spent on programmes and activities that included military training for officers from African countries at the UK defence academy, “English language and culture training”, on salaries and other costs of British experts and consultants, and pensions for retired colonial civil servants.

A Department for International Development (DfID) spokesman told the Guardian it was acting in compliance with OECD rules and there was "no reason this money can't be spent within the UK."

The paper’s findings are likely to feed the current debate over whether some UK overseas aid should be diverted to help the thousands of Britons affected by unprecedented flooding in parts of southern and southwestern England and Wales – a proposal Prime Minister David Cameron has rejected. 

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