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UK Budget 2010 – what news for development?


The UK Budget 2010 is a domestic budget for a domestic and pre-occupied audience. It is a budget focused primarily on financial recovery and growth. While some appealing commitments to low-carbon investment have been thrown into the mix, there is little or no mention of support for international development goals. Should we be worried at the fact there is so little in this budget on the UK’s wider international agenda? Does it play into the hands of those who would criticise the UK’s commitment to international development and to fulfilling the pledges made at Gleneagles five years ago?  

On first reading, no. The budget document reiterates the clear commitment by government to deliver spending equivalent to 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA) by 2013. 

On second reading, yes. UK recovery will depend on more than UK domestic issues. It is also about the UK’s engagement in the wider global economy and the prospects for growth and development elsewhere. 

As the DFID White Paper noted in June last year, growth and prosperity at home and abroad are shared concepts; they are inextricably linked and reflect our increasingly interdependent world.  But there is little sign of this sentiment in this budget.  There is reference to the G20 and the importance of global financial stability. There is reference to the different pace of recovery in emerging and advanced economies. But there is no reference to the pace of recovery and growth elsewhere. The fact is that this was a truly global financial crisis, with no part of the globe left untouched, as recent ODI research on the crisis confirms. What is happening in the rest of the world economy, including in poor and developing nations, matters for the UK’s recovery.

Securing the UK’s recovery is also about making sure that there are jobs and frontline services being created and provided in other parts of the world. Without a balanced recovery the UK’s economic future will be vulnerable.

A major research programme by ODI over the past 18 months has shown the extent of the crisis in Africa and Asia and the strategies that really support recovery.  The research finds that recovery has been stronger than we might have predicted, in part because of the concerted effort of the international community to make sure low and middle-income countries were not left behind.  But there is no room for complacency. The UK has led the way in keeping development issues at the top of the international policy agenda, particularly at the G20.  

Does the budget herald a subtle shift away from the development agenda?  Next week, Vince Cable, Alastair Darling and George Osborne will try to convince us of their relative merits when it comes to running the UK economy on Channel 4’s ‘Ask the Chancellors’ Debate. My hope is that each will spell out their commitment to genuine and lasting international development.