Progress on reform made a condition of aid increase

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The Independent Online

Pakistan is to become the biggest recipient of British aid within three years, despite persistent allegations of corruption among the country's elite.

Spending aid money on creating a more stable Pakistan is not just an act of generosity, it is also a way to "build a safer world", according to the Department for International Development's Bilateral Aid Review, published yesterday.

Aid to Pakistan is scheduled to more than double over four years, from £215m in the current year to £446m in 2014-15 – though a condition of the increased aid is that "progress is made on reforms", including tackling corruption and improving tax collection.

Most of the money will go into education, in a country where half of the adult population and two thirds of women cannot read or write, and more than a third of children of primary school age are not at school.

Britain's aim is to help to get 2.7 million Pakistani children into primary school by 2014, and provide six million textbooks. The biggest recipient of British aid is India, where three quarters of the population live on less than £500 a year. Aid to India will increase next year from £274m to £280m, but is then set to stay at that level for three years.

Ethiopia, where about 35 million people out of a population of 80 million are reckoned to be living in abject poverty, will then top the league of aid recipients for two years, after which it will be overtaken by Pakistan.

Afghanistan is also among the top seven recipients of British aid, despite having a population less than half that of any of the other big beneficiaries. Aid to Afghanistan will average about £6 per head of population per year for the next four years, compared with £2 per head for Pakistan.

The most generous per capita aid is reserved for the Overseas Territories, a collection of former colonies, mostly small islands such as the Falklands and Virgin Islands. They have a combined population thought to be less than 260,000, and will receive an average of more than £80m a year in aid.

The International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, announced this week that DfiD was reducing the number of countries that will receive British aid. The 13 that will not be getting any more aid include China and Russia. Instead, resources will be concentrated on 27 of the world's poorest countries, 16 of which are in Africa, and 11 in Asia.

The top seven, with the total amount of aid they are expected to receive between now and 2015 in brackets, are Pakistan (£1,392m), Ethiopia (£1,325m), India (£1,120m), Bangladesh (1,000m), Nigeria (£1,000m), Congo (£790m), and Afghanistan (£710m).