Britons Call for Cuts in International Aid, Smarter Spending Needed

Survey respondents say they want more money spent at home in the face of rising domestic budget deficits. But can international aid still work?

British international aid

The international aid industry is rife with errors and weaknesses. Social entrepreneurs and developers have long known there were better paths to prosperity than foreign aid, such as local innovation and microfinance.

But hearing that same criticism from the masses is an altogether different issue. The majority of Britons in a new report from the Institute of Development Studies, said too much money is being taken away from them for tax purposes and spent on foreign aid. But what else does the latest public opinion survey reveal about morality and spending priorities in the U.K.? And will it result in policy changes or raise questions about suitable alternatives to foreign aid?

"The surveys to date haven’t asked questions about what the public think about alternatives to aid, and our analysis hasn’t gone so far as to explore the issue of public opinion on aid impacting policy," Johanna Lindstrom, Research Officer at the Institute of Development Studies and one of the report’s authors, tells Fast Company. "Having said that, international aid is of course a complex and varied issue—much aid does, for example, encourage innovation, training, research etc at a local level. So it’s worth considering that 'local innovation' might be a possible outcome, rather than an alternative to aid."

For Britons, helping the poor is seen as a moral imperative, yet due to the U.K.'s increasing budget deficit, a majority of Britons want that help to be directed domestically, to assist local communities with aid. More generally, the report identifies that as the U.K. budget deficit increases, support for international aid decreases.

The report also reveals that older Britons are more likely to support reducing funding for international aid, when compared to a younger demographic. The authors thus make the case that development communicators should focus on the older demographic.

[Image: Flickr user isafmedia]

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  • Brian Kane

    Americans always say we should cut foreign aid, even though foreign aid is a miniscule amount compared to the almost unimaginable amount of money we throw away on military spending. Obviously, the U.K. doesn't spend anywhere near as much as we do on their military, but what portion of their national budget is actually spent on foreign aid? Is this just another case of the badly-informed being driven to a particular opinion by the Murdoch-dominated media, or is there an actual case to be made for cutting that spending rather than some other thing that would actually have an impact on the situation in Britain?