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Britain slashes aid to poor countries

The flow of aid to poor countries from rich governments has slumped, with the UK one of the meanest donor countries, writes Diane Coyle. Britain has suffered the additional embarrassment of being overtaken for the first time by the Netherlands in the amount of development aid it provides.

The UK government also plans to reduce the number of staff at the Overseas Development Administration by 17 per cent by 1997/98, according to figures revealed yesterday in a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In its annual review of development assistance provided by member countries - the 29 richest in the world - the OECD revealed that total aid spending fell by nearly a tenth in real terms in 1995. The total declined to $58.9bn in cash terms.

The normally upbeat report describes this as a slump, and said 15 out of the 21 countries reviewed had slashed aid spending. The OECD set out an "action plan", including increased official assistance, for giving more help to poor countries.

Official aid from the UK amounted to $3.2bn (pounds 2bn) in 1995, a fall of 6.5 per cent in real terms. UK aid was sixth lowest as a share of GDP, well below the OECD average at only 0.28 per cent, although the think- tank conceded that the British programme was "businesslike".