“UK doles out more aid than any other country: Despite the savage cutbacks at home, we top world league in foreign aid”. Daily Mail, 27 May 2011.
“It comes as he faces criticism from some MPs that Britain has given the most – in terms of national wealth – of all the major economies.” The Daily Telegraph, 27 May 2011.
“DAVID Cameron was last night forced to defend the Coalition’s spiralling foreign aid budget after official figures confirmed that Britain is handing out more taxpayers’ money overseas than almost any other country in the world.” The Express, 27 May 2011.
David Cameron yesterday announced at the G8 summit that the UK would be giving an extra £110 million in international aid to North Africa. The response in the above papers this morning has been a strong objection to what is said to be Britain’s over-generous international aid budget relative to other countries.
With the Daily Mail particularly adamant on the issue, and with a Full Fact reader questioning the basis of these claims, we went in search of the figures.
The OECD publishes a round-up of international aid statistics, which has the latest country figures for 2010, both in terms of how much money each country contributes in cash terms, and the amounts given relative to each country’s Gross National Income (GNI).
In 2010 the UK gave the second largest overall amount of aid money of any country, at $13.76 billion; this was behind the USA which gave $30.15 billion. In terms of aid relative to GNI, the UK comes in at seven in the international rankings at 0.56 per cent. Norway tops the table with 1.1 per cent of GNI going on international aid, while the next major economy to the UK is France, at 0.5 per cent.
It is clear from these figures that the Daily Mail should have taken a closer look at the data before declaring with such certainty that the UK topped the tables for international aid.
In their article they go on to state:
“…a damning report released at the G8 summit reveals that Britain spends more on aid as a percentage of national income than any other country in the world – while British taxpayers suffer through an age of austerity.”
Even with the UK increasing its aid contribution to 0.7 per cent of GNI over the next few years, which will mean a big increase in the real cash value of British aid, the UK will still not top either of the two international tables.
On firmer footing was the Daily Telegraph, which was correct in saying that Britain came top of the tables for international aid as a percentage of GNI out of the major economies of the G8. Similarly, the Express, whilst going for the broader world comparison, correctly noted that the UK did not come top of the list.
All of the papers were referring to the recently released Accountability Report from this year’s G8 leaders’ summit, in which it’s noted that the UK is the most generous G8 country in aid donations relative to GNI.
In reporting on the progress towards the aid commitments agreed at the G8 summit, where countries had signed up to a 0.7 per cent of GNI target, the accountability report notes that only the UK is on track to meet this target.
Indeed, between 2009 and 2010 the UK saw its international aid budget increase by over 30 per cent, the biggest increase of any of the major donors.
While the Telegraph and the Express stopped short of putting the UK top of a global ranking of international aid donors, the Daily Mail seems to have thrown caution to the wind in reaching a headline that oversteps the remit of the facts.
While the UK is the most generous G8 economy in international aid relative to GNI, it does not give the most aid of any country in the world, neither relative to GNI nor in absolute terms.