International budget targets child poverty

Overseas Aid
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Aid agencies welcomed an increase in Clare Short'sinternational development budget.

Aid agencies welcomed an increase in Clare Short'sinternational development budget.

The 6.2 per cent real-terms annual rise will bring Britain's aid spending to 0.33 per cent of Gross National Product by 2004 from 0.29 per cent at present, though still well short of the United Nations' 0.7 per cent target.

The money will be used to bring all the most heavily indebted poor countries into a debt relief programme by 2004, to improve child, maternal and reproductive health in the top 10 recipient countries for British aid, and to increase primary school enrolment in those countries from 75 per cent to 81 per cent.

The budget for Ms Short, the International Development Secretary, will rise to £3.6bn in 2003-04 from £2.8bn this year. "This is the largest UK aid budget in real terms and underlines the Government's commitment to help halve and eventually eliminate extreme poverty," she said last night.

A spokesman for Oxfam, the international charity, said: "Size matters but so does quality, and if this extra money can be translated into more children in school, especially girls, and more children vaccinated, then it will be money well spent."

There will also be two new conflict prevention bodies to co-ordinate the work of the international development, foreign and defence departments. One will be for subSaharan Africa, chaired by Ms Short, and the other for the rest of the world, chaired by the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook. They will have a total budget of £356m over three years.

The Foreign Office will receive a real-terms increase of 1.9 per cent per year for three years, taking its budget from £777m to £869m.

Bigger increases will be granted to the BBC World Service, which will receive a 3.9 per cent annual increase, taking its budget from £174m to £210m. It will use the cash to boost its FM radio and online capabilities.

The British Council's budget will rise from £136m to £159m by 2003-04.