Britain tops G8 nations in overseas aid says report

Britain is spending a larger proportion of national income on overseas aid than any other G8 nation, according to a report published ahead of this week's summit of the group of industrialised states.

The Accountability Report produced by this year's summit hosts Canada shows that in 2009, the UK devoted 0.52% of its GDP to aid - 11.5 billion US dollars (£7.75 billion) - with the total projected to rise to 0.6% this year.

By comparison, France spent 0.46% of national income on aid, Germany 0.35%, the US 0.2% and Italy just 0.16%.

The report found that the G8 nations - Britain, the US, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia - are 10 billion US dollars short of the commitment made at the Gleneagles summit in 2005 to provide an additional 50 billion dollars of aid by 2010. If inflation is taken into account, the shortfall rises to 18 billion dollars.

The UK Government is committed to increasing the proportion of GDP for aid to meet the United Nations target of 0.7% by 2013.

Chancellor George Osborne is expected to spare the Department for International Development from the cuts he will inflict on other ministries in tomorrow's Budget.

Responding to the Canadian report, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "This report represents a major step forward in international aid transparency, and will make it easier than ever before for people to hold governments to account for the promises they make on international development.

"While we should not ignore the collective progress made in lifting millions of the world's poorest out of poverty, this report shows how much still needs to be done for the G8 to meet its aid commitments.

"This Government, along with others, will honour these promises, and in the coming weeks the Prime Minister and I will be calling on other countries to do the same."

Today's report highlighted "slower than expected" progress by the European Union towards meeting its Gleneagles commitment to hit the 0.7% target by 2015. By 2009, the EU as a whole had reached 0.42%.

Meanwhile, Italy's contribution slumped from 0.29% of GDP in 2005 to 0.16% last year due to "the severe constraints of high public debt" while Japan's fell from 0.19% in 2004 to 0.18% in 2009, said the report.

Development charity ActionAid's head of G8 policy, Meredith Alexander, said that the rich nations were falling short on a pledge made at last year's summit in L'Aquila, Italy, to deliver 22 billion US dollars for agriculture in the poorer parts of the world.

A report by ActionAid last week highlighted the fact that money classified as agricultural aid had been spent on items including naval patrol boats, odour control and food processing plants and biofuel crops.

"Warm words alone don't feed empty bellies," said Ms Alexander. "Despite last year's bold pledge to fight hunger, the reality is the G8 has spent a million dollars less on food and farming last year than it did the year before.

"It's good that the G8 has recognised the key to solving the food crisis is investing in the 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide, who feed one third of humanity. But it's time for the G8 to be clear about how and when the money it promised will be spent.

"ActionAid's recent discovery that some G8 nations have been frittering desperately needed hunger aid to fund odour control and biofuels does little to inspire confidence and must not be allowed to continue. As the world is tightening its belt, it's vital that every penny of aid is spent effectively and reaches the people who need it most.

"At Friday's summit, before making new promises, the G8 needs to show they are serious about helping the one billion people who go hungry every day."