The president of the World Bank has told Theresa May that cutting the UK’s aid budget could lead to an increase in conflict, terrorism and migration and would damage Britain’s international reputation.
In a strongly worded response to reports that the government was considering dropping its commitment to devote 0.7% of national income to aid each year, Jim Yong Kim said the money the UK provided was vital not just for developing countries but for the future of the world.
His comments came after Bill Gates told the Guardian that lives would be lost in Africa if the government dropped the commitment because plans to eradicate malaria would be jeopardised. Like Kim, the Microsoft founder also stressed that the UK would lose influence.
At £13.3bn in 2016, Britain’s aid budget was the third biggest in the world after Germany and US. Of the G7, only Britain and Germany currently meet the UN’s 0.7% target for aid, and Britain is also one of the biggest donors to the World Bank.
Kim said the UK’s Department for International Development had played a vital role in efforts to rid the world of poverty. “We were extremely encouraged when prime minister David Cameron fulfilled the commitment to 0.7%,” Kim said at a press conference to mark the opening of the spring meetings of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
“It is important for people in the UK to understand just how significant that was in expanding the UK’s influence in the world. It would be very unfortunate for the UK to reduce its efforts. I would say the 0.7% that has been committed to is critically, critically important, not just for developing countries but for the future of the world.”
The 0.7% pledge was originally made by Labour but it was only achieved after Cameron became prime minister in 2010.
May is under pressure from the Tory right, Ukip and Conservative-supporting papers to cut aid spending. She pointedly refused this week to say she would keep to the commitment in the event of winning the forthcoming general election, prompting strong speculation that it will be abandoned.