Every time India launches another successful space mission, I get a raft of complaints from constituents demanding to know why UK aid is still going to India which is a rich country, evidently rich enough to afford a space exploration programme.
To be fair, India’s spectacularly successful space programme is run on a great deal of ingenuity and a pretty small budget.
Although India’s economy is growing spectacularly, and it won’t be long before it overtakes UK as the world’s fifth largest. That however, doesn’t make it a ‘rich’ country. Despite a growing middle class, the nation’s income is spread between 1.41 billion souls. India has the highest proportion of the world’s poorest people. So, if the objective is to relieve extreme poverty, then not having an impact on it in India, means that the objective will not be reached at all.
Nevertheless, politicians are not tin-eared. The chorus of criticism of continuing aid to India has been long-standing. As a consequence, in 2011 we completed a review which concluded that we would run-down our existing projects and discontinue grant aid from 2015.
We determined that we would continue with commercial loans and with the provision of expertise to a couple of the poorest state governments, enabling them to make best use of revenues they received from the Government in Delhi.
(Inevitably however, given that the UK stumps up its proper share to fund UN Agencies, if one of them, say, UNICEF for example, has an education project in a poor Indian state, some of that expenditure could be traced back to the UK.)
So that’s the position: We aren’t giving grant aid to India or funding their space programme.
I was surprised that some commentators said that I was “disobliging” to the PM by “challenging” him on this in the Commons last Monday, when he returned from The G20 Summit in India. On the contrary, I was giving him the opportunity to knock the myth about aid to India on the head, which, I am glad to say, he took. Judge the exchange for yourself
Hansard Vol 737. Column 693 Monday 11 September
Sir Desmond Swayne
In 2015, I went to Delhi to implement the coalition Government’s decision to end grant development aid to India. That policy hasn’t changed, has it?
The Prime Minister
The policy did change and we stopped providing traditional development aid to India in 2015. Most UK funding is now in the form of business investments which not only help India reduce carbon emissions and address climate change, but deliver jobs and opportunity for British companies here at home