UK spends aid too much money on Chinese film industry, not enough on world’s poorest, say lawmakers
A UK parliamentary report says aid must be directed at reducing poverty rather than being used as ‘a slush fund to pay for developing the UK’s diplomatic, trade or national security’
Too much British aid is being spent on developing China’s film industry and museums, not helping the world’s poorest people, UK members of parliament said on Tuesday, as the charity sector grapples to restore its credibility after a major sex abuse scandal.
The UK International Development Committee said some 600 million pounds (US$801 million) of development assistance spent by departments outside the foreign aid agency often lacked transparency, with information redacted for security reasons.
“This lack of clarity risks undermining faith in the UK aid brand,” the parliamentary report said. “[Aid] must be directed primarily at reducing poverty, helping the very poorest and most vulnerable rather than being used as a slush fund to pay for developing the UK’s diplomatic, trade or national security.”
Charities were put under the spotlight this year after revelations that Oxfam staff paid for sex with prostitutes in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, bolstering critics of Britain’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of economic output on aid.
The committee was particularly critical of the cross-governmental UK Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), whose aims include reducing risks in countries where Britain has key interests, and the Prosperity Fund, which seeks to boost trade.
Referring to foreign office-administered Prosperity Fund projects to develop the Chinese film industry and improve its museum infrastructure, it said: “It is unclear to us how these types of interventions will benefit the very poorest.”
A foreign office spokeswoman said that Britain no longer funded film or cultural industries in China. The committee called for reviews of the Prosperity Fund’s existing projects and of the continuation of the CSSF.
It also said that Department for International Development should sign off on all overseas aid and tighten up practice in other departments.
Romilly Greenhill, UK Director of the ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty advocacy group, said the recommendations were “spot on”.
“The British taxpayer rightly expects any part of government responsible for delivering UK aid to ensure it is transparent, effective and focused on the job its intended for – reducing poverty,” she said.