DFID on spending UK aid on infrastructure in developing countries

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Today, Friday, 12 October, The Sun has published a story following a report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) on DFID’s investment in transport and urban infrastructure in developing countries.

ICAI is an independent organisation which, in its own words, “scrutinises taxpayer-funded aid”.

Its review of this element of DFID’s work was generally positive, saying that “DFID’s transport and urban infrastructure work supports its strategic priorities of promoting prosperity, tackling extreme poverty, and strengthening resilience in developing countries,” adding that “DFID has clearly identified its niche in the sector.”

The Sun’s online headline - "Fury as £4bn of foreign aid budget goes to fixing potholes abroad" – completely misrepresents the findings of the report, focussing as it does exclusively on a very narrow area of DFID’s work in this field, namely potholes.

In the paper edition the headline - £4bn foreign aid to fix potholes in India – is even more misleading.

DFID invested £3.9bn in 57 separate transport and infrastructure programmes that were operational during 2015 and 2016, although many of those projects will have started before this time. Not one of these programmes was aimed in any significant part at fixing potholes.

This headline, as it currently stands, is wrong and presents an entirely false picture of the work that is being carried out by the department.

The Sun also claims that DFID’s other spending included a “£700m fund to provide transport, water and electricity on an island the size of Birmingham on Lake Victoria in East Africa. The project included building an all-weather road”.

This is false. The entire project, funded by a range of different organisations of which DFID was just one, has received $49m of investment, so around £37m.

DFID’s total contribution, both directly and through our contribution to the Private Infrastructure Development Group, was £8.7m.

The main thrust of DFID’s work in this area centres around improving transport services and infrastructure in developing countries. The projects create jobs and help countries attract investment,  while improving their safety standards.

DFID’s response to The Sun, which they did not publish at all online and only in part in the print version, outlined why it is that we invest in this work.

It is to help countries improve on how they build infrastructure, which is key to economic development and helping some of the world’s poorest people escape poverty. Reliable infrastructure helps countries become more productive, makes trade easier, and creates an environment in which business can flourish.

Or as Tina Fahm, the ICAI Commissioner who led the review put it, “transport and urban infrastructure are key ingredients for economic growth and poverty reduction so it’s important to invest effectively in these areas as the UK seeks to improve people’s lives. It is therefore welcome that DFID has played a key role internationally in encouraging investment in the sector.”

Such investment is a win for the developing countries, but also for the UK which trades with them.

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  1. Comment by Vera Marriott posted on

    This doesn’t address why any aid is given to India when they have a space programme and also a nuclear programme. If they can afford to spend vast sums of money on their space programme then they shouldn’t need any Aid money from the British tax payer!!!

  2. Comment by William Appiah posted on

    What sanctions are there for the sun's false report published about DFID?

    • Replies to William Appiah>

      Comment by John posted on

      The authorities will tell you anything to justify the money they give away, why are we giving money to countries with nuclear programmes and space programs, who spend vast amounts on their military while our infrastructure is falling to pieces in the U.K., it’s lunacy our national debt accumulation is steadily climbing and we are giving away billions every year.... would you keep borrowing money to give it away? No because you would be classed as bankrupt and wouldn’t be allowed too...

  3. Comment by Robert Spowart posted on

    India is not a developing country. It has it's own nuclear arsenal and space programme so does not need "aid" from Britain.

  4. Comment by Hate this tax system posted on

    I agree with all above. Foreign aid should be withheld until our own country is helped. Help the people here before helping others. Raising taxes to help the world shouldnt be priority. Use this money to fix our roads, provide more police build more schools prisons and hospitals first. Once we are in a good financial state then consider helping abroad!

  5. Comment by Pete sach posted on

    I agree with aid in times of hardship such as severe flooding, earthquakes tsunamis etc but with countries like India who are becoming a major economy its for their own government to help its own people 1st , as its also our Governments (responsibility) to fund our own road repairs BEFORE sending OUR taxes overseas

  6. Comment by Andrew Gilfillan posted on

    I'm sorry I came onto this site to prove the story wrong that was being posted on social media. Only to find that although wrong in essence it's correct. I would ask how we can justify this amount of spending on foreign aid to countries that are spending millions on their respective nuclear weapons program. It begs believe that we're improving roads in rural Pakistan making it easier for the movement of terrorists. But what really hurts is when I read how many people in the UK are dependent on food banks and handouts even to the point of the military handing out rashion packs. I'm not against foreign aid but charity should start at home.