UK aid to poorest countries reduced

Britain is redirecting aid money from poorer to richer countries according to official figures released by the Department for International Development.

The cash has been taken away from countries failing to meet the department's targets for poverty reduction.

Instead, it is going to nations thought more likely to use it wisely, regardless of their relative wealth.

To continue receiving aid, countries must meet several targets including a reduction in child mortality and an increase in school enrolment. And they must show that their gross domestic product is rising.

Last night Gary Streeter, the Conservative overseas aid spokesman, said that the department's annual report had praised India and China for their rising GDP levels, while pointing out that sub-Saharan Africa had suffered a drop of 0.2 per cent.

Accordingly, aid to China and India was to be increased in 2000-02 by 40 per cent and 150 per cent respectively. But cuts were planned for the southern, central and Great Horn regions of Africa.

The report also makes clear that child and maternal mortality rates in Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia were "particularly high". These three countries and Pakistan also have the lowest rates of enrolment to school.

All four countries have seen their aid slashed.

Mr Streeter said last night: "I am very concerned that the Government appears to be shifting aid away from the countries that are most in need because they are not meeting three random paper targets.

"Clare Short (the International Development Secretary) is increasing aid where it should be cut by propping up the corrupt Zimbabwean government and cutting other aid budgets in sub-Saharan Africa where reconstruction and development are most needed.

"Increasing aid to China and Indonesia, two countries with very poor human rights records, flies in the face of the Government's ethical foreign policy and makes a mockery of their stated intention to support the world's poorest people."

The department's report for 2000 makes it clear that aid plans have been revised to "help meet the international development targets and reduce poverty".

Mr Streeter said: "This is a Government admission that funding plans are being altered to meet their own poverty targets."

Ms Short explained the phenomenon in the report, saying: "We have increased our resource transfers to those [countries] committed to tackling poverty. Where this commitment is lacking we have reduced spending."

The Tories reject this claim. They have seized on figures showing that Britain has halved its long-term aid to Ethiopia to prevent the money being used to fund the famine-threatened country's war with Eritrea. Aid to Mozambique, which is recovering from floods, has also been slashed.