Britain is to cut its global aid budget by £2.9 billion this year due to the economic hit of the coronavirus crisis.
However, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insists the UK will still meet its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income (GNI) on international development.
Government sources said that a “line by line” review of aid projects had taken place and what were considered the “40 most vulnerable countries” were prioritised for assistance.
The spending on Official Development Assistance (ODA) was set to be £15.8 billion this year before the Covid-19 crisis emerged.
In a letter to Sarah Champion, chairwoman of the Commons International Development Committee, Mr Raab said: “The UK is experiencing a severe economic downturn as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have been able to ensure that the money we will still spend in 2020 remains prioritised on poverty reduction for the ‘bottom billion’, as well as tackling climate change and reversing biodiversity loss, championing girls education, UK leadership in the global response to Covid-19, and campaigning on issues such as media freedom and freedom of religious belief.”
Mr Raab said spending on ODA would remain at 0.7 per cent of GNI.
He said: “So that we can react to the potential shrinkage in our economy, and therefore a decrease in the value of the 0.7 per cent commitment (which is based on the UK’s GNI), we have identified a £2.9bn package of reductions in the Government’s planned ODA spend so we can proceed prudently for the remainder of 2020.
“The package I have agreed with the Prime Minister maintains our flexibility and enables the Government to manage our ODA spend against an uncertain 0.7 per cent position.
“It will see some reductions made now, with arrangements in place to tailor spending further during the remaining months as we start to gain a clearer economic picture.
“I would be happy to speak to you to provide further details, if helpful.”
Picture: Archive photo, dated 13/8/2014, shows cargo from UK Aid waiting to be loaded on to an Antonov An-12B aircraft at East Midlands Airport. ( Simon Cooper/PA).