UK aid to Pakistan - Andrew Mitchell - Friday, March 11, 2011

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When the United Kingdom’s coalition government came to power last year we knew that tough economic times would call for tough choices. But we will not balance our books on the backs of the poor – whether in Britain or around the world.

That is why we have made a commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of the United Kingdom’s Gross National Income as aid. As a result of that decision, we have faced criticism from some who think that aid should be cut.

But I believe that the next four years represent an opportunity to change lives and transform communities across the developing world. Yet if the world is to make real progress in the fight against poverty in these four years that remain to reach the Millennium Development Goals, we need to ensure that our collective efforts have the greatest possible impact.

That is why my first act as the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for International Development was to instigate a review of all our aid around the world. That review has looked at where we spend our money, how aid is delivered, and the results we achieve.

As a result of the review, if progress is made on reform then Pakistan could become the UK’s largest recipient of aid, scaling up to £446 million (Rs62 billion) a year by 2015.

However this increase in UKaid is dependent on securing value for money and results, and will be calibrated to the government of Pakistan’s own progress on reform, including taking tangible steps to build a more dynamic economy, strengthen the tax base, and tackle corruption.

Our plans for Pakistan over the next four years include getting four million more children in to school, preventing 3,600 women’s deaths in childbirth, and getting two million more people to vote at the next general election.

UK aid over the coming years will include:

• Education: the one key issue that has the potential to transform Pakistan’s future is education. That’s why a major portion of UK aid will focus on getting more than four million more children in to school; recruit and train an additional 90,000 new teachers; and provide more than six million text books;

• Health: women and children are the UK’s top health priority. We will prevent 3,600 mothers’ deaths in childbirth; save the lives of 110,000 children by expanding basic community health services; prevent half-a-million children from becoming under-nourished; and help another 400,000 couples to access family planning and contraceptives;

• Economy and financial inclusion: we will help another 1.5 million poor people, more than half of them women, access microfinance loans to enable them to set up their own business and lift themselves out of poverty; expand branchless banking to another three million people; enable another 4,000 loans to small and medium businesses; fund jobs and skills training for 125,000 poor people in Punjab;

• Democracy and governance: UKaid will get another two million people, half of them women, to vote at the next general election; strengthen weak government institutions to improve delivery of essential services to the public, including education and health; as well as help improve policing and access to justice, and contribute to the rebuilding of schools, roads, and bridges in the border areas to replace those destroyed by conflict;

• The UK will continue to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance when needed, as it did in response to the devastating floods in 2010 and earthquake in 2005.

Around the world, we will work with fewer countries, where we believe our assistance can have the greatest impact.

We will do more to provide the building blocks of a better life: sufficient food, clean drinking water, basic healthcare, and education. We will do more to create economic growth and jobs, working with the private sector to create opportunity.

We will tackle poverty and insecurity in some of the world’s most unstable places. Development can help tackle the root causes of global problems such as disease, drugs, migration, terrorism, and climate change, which matter to all of us.

As part of this global review of aid, we have also taken a hard look at the value for money offered by international organisations such as the World Bank and the United Nations. No one doubts the importance of such organisations to the effort to fight poverty. But we know that they are not all equally effective. The United Kingdom will no longer provide funding to organisations which do not deliver – instead directing more of our aid to those which do, and pushing them to deliver even more.

Above all, we will be relentless in providing value for money and achieving results. That matters because we need to be able to show our taxpayers that we are delivering with their money, and because we need to ensure that every pound of our aid has the maximum impact for the people we are trying to help. That is why I have introduced a new Aid Transparency Guarantee, and set up an independent aid watchdog. I believe that the United Kingdom is leading the way on aid transparency, and I am encouraging others to join us in this effort.

Aid spent well has the power to improve millions of lives. I am proud of what British aid is achieving, and I sincerely believe that working together, we have an opportunity to transform the life chances of millions of people around the world.

The writer is United Kingdom’s secretary of state for international development.

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