British aid has been in effect reduced by up to £334m as a result of the plummeting value of the pound, according to figures to be released by the Conservative Party today.
The £334m represented more than Britain has given in aid to Sierra Leone for the past five years and more than the British aid budget for South America, the Caribbean, Central Asia and the Middle East put together. The amount lost by the dive in the pound, which has lost 20 per cent of its value against a basket of currencies since the beginning of the year, could buy 66 million anti-malaria nets at £5 each.
The Conservatives highlighted the pound's decline against currencies in the developing world since Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister. They pointed to such examples as a 22 per cent slump against the Bangladesh taka, which cut UK aid by around £28m, and 19 per cent against the Tanzanian shilling, affecting £24m in aid.
The £334m figure is an estimate of the imputed "loss" if all British aid was converted into the local currencies at last Wednesday's exchange rate.
"Not only have Gordon Brown's economic policies been a disaster for people in Britain, but the slump in our currency is affecting the value of our support to poor people around the world," said the shadow international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell.
But a Department for International Development spokesman pointed out that "while the value of sterling has fallen, so too have currencies in some countries where the UK provides aid. Prices of oil, food and other commodities are also falling. Recipients have benefited from the rise of sterling over two years, and it should be remembered the downturn takes place in the context of rising UK aid in real sterling terms over the next five years."