Poorest nations lose as cash goes to Iraq

British government aid programmes aimed at some of the poorest people in the world are to be emasculated to allow ministers to commit £540m in aid to help rebuild Iraq, The Independent has discovered.

As America runs into difficulty drumming up the $36bn (£21bn) it needs for Iraq from more than 70 countries gathered for a conference in Madrid, Britain is acting as chief cheerleader. But finding the promised British contribution without raising taxes or cutting government spending has meant that the overseas aid budget is being used.

On 25 April, two weeks after Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in central Baghdad, Tony Blair gave an assurance to British charities in a handwritten note that "funds will not be redirected from other emergencies ... nor from programmes supporting poor people elsewhere". But the Department for International Development (DFID), now led by Hilary Benn, has been told to find up to £100m by reducing programmes in countries such as Peru, the Philippines, Bolivia and South Africa.

"This means Tony Blair has broken his promise," said Justin Forsyth, policy director at Oxfam. There was similar condemnation from Christian Aid, while Caroline Spelman, shadow International Development Secretary, said it was "morally wrong" to take aid from other countries to fund the rebuilding of Iraq. President George Bush has persuaded Japan to pledge $1.5bn for Iraq next year. South Korea and Canada have come up with a further £206m and the World Bank is lending Iraq up to £3bn. But German and French unease means the European Union is limiting its contribution for Iraq to a relatively paltry £140m from 15 countries for one year.

The American blueprint for the invasion and occupation of Iraq foresaw a virtuous circle whereby billions of dollars from oil exports were to pay to rebuild the country.

Attacks on Iraq's oil-export pipelines by the Iraqi resistance have reduced exports to a trickle, wrecking the business model for the American-led occupation.

The International Development Secretary, who is leading the British delegation to Madrid, will tell the conference that £540m in British aid is being committed to Iraq for the years 2004-07. A spokesman for DFID said yesterday: "Yes, we are going to have to reprioritise where the money goes." But he added that final decisions on which projects would be cut had not been made. Mr Benn said in a statement: "We had already planned to reduce our overall allocation to middle-income countries in order to increase our spending in the poorest countries."

On 10 April, the day after Saddam Hussein's regime crumbled in Baghdad, the former international development secretary Clare Short told the House of Commons that aid needed to rebuild the country would not be at the expense of other poor people.

LOSING VITAL RESOURCES

BOLIVIA

The poorest country in South America, suffering from a huge wealth gap and social unrest.

SOUTH AFRICA

Has a soaring Aids/HIV rate. There are more than five million sufferers, 250,000 under the age of 14.

RUSSIA

More than half of the population live on less than $11 a day. There are also at least 443,000 internally displaced people.

PERU

Despite its rich landscape and vast potential wealth, the development of Peru has been thwarted by endemic corruption and failure to address social and economic inequalities. As a result the average annual income is $1,980 and one in ten in the 27.1m population is undernourished.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...