Foreign aid: which countries are the most generous?
With Europe tussling over who is doing more to help refugees in the current crisis, we decided to take a look who gives the most… and the least
What’s the situation?
The UK’s international reputation is suffering at the moment, with David Cameron castigated Europe-wide for his “inadequate” response to the refugee crisis. He has now promised to resettle an extra 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, which chancellor George Osborne suggests will be funded by the UK foreign aid budget to provide support for local councils in housing, social and health care for the refugees.
So far Britain’s response to the refugee crisis seems pretty minimal compared to Germany which says it could take in 500,000 refugees each year. But in reality, as the prime minister has pointed out, the UK is already a significant contributor of foreign aid.
In 2013, the UK joined a select group of countries that had reached the target of donating 0.7% of their national income on foreign aid. Of the 29 members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), only Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg spent more than 0.7% of their national income in foreign aid in 2013. That same year, the UK’s spending grew by 27.8% to hit the international target, spending £11.4bn – about £180 per person – on aid. The latest figures for 2014 show donor money has increased further, with the UK spending 0.71% of its gross domestic income (GDI) on foreign aid.
Where does the money go?
The 2015 priorities of the Department for International Development (DfID) which allocates the money cover health and economic growth, among others. Nearly 40% of the budget goes to multilateral organisations including the UN and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, while the remaining funds go in bilateral aid – money sent to developing countries. The most recent international development government statistics from 2013 show Pakistan, Ethiopia and Bangladesh received the most in bilateral aid from the UK.
So which were the most generous countries in 2014?
The US donated the most funds (net) in foreign aid last year at $32bn. But when looking at the percentage of the country’s national income given to foreign aid, the US contribution is less impressive. It spent 0.19% of its national income, which is the same percentage as Portugal and Japan.
Out of the DAC countries, Sweden was the most generous – it was the first to meet the 0.7% target in 1974 – donating 1.1% of its GNI to foreign aid, which works out at about $6.2bn. Next came Luxembourg, at 1.07%, then Norway at 0.99% and Denmark at 0.85%. The UK was fifth, higher than Germany at 0.41%, France at 0.36% and Switzerland at 0.49%. In total the UK spent $19bn on foreign aid last year, compared to $16bn from Germany and $10bn from France.
Who are the other big spenders?
The country that donated the most to foreign aid in terms of percentage of GNI was the United Arab Emirates (a non-DAC country), and it sent 1.17% of its national income to development aid, after providing substantial assistance to Egypt. This is equivalent to $4bn, close to what Australia put towards aid. But for Australia, the $4bn is only 0.27% of its national income.
While part of the UK’s aid budget goes to Bric countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China which have the world’s largest and fastest emerging-market economies – they also donate significant amounts in foreign aid. According to Devex, foreign aid expenditure of the Bric countries increased from about $1.5bn in 2005 to approximately $4.2bn in 2011.
Which countries donated the least?
Out of the DAC countries, those which seemed to give the least in development assistance are the Slovak Republic donating 0.08% of its GNI, the Czech Republic, Greece and Slovenia at 0.11%, Korea at 0.13% and Spain at 0.14%. Including non-DAC countries, Israel and Latvia were the lowest, donating 0.07% and 0.08% respectively.
Iceland technically donated the least out of the DAC countries, at $35m, but that’s 0.21% of its GNI: 0.2% higher than America’s contribution.
Out of the 34 countries listed as donors by the OECD, Latvia donated the least with $25m, which is just 0.08% of its national income. But that was a 3% increase on its donations the previous year, when more than half of the members cut their aid budgets from 2013 to 2014. Japan’s was cut by 15.3% to $9bn, Australia saw cuts of 7.2% to $4.2bn, while Spain cut its funding by 20.3% to $1.8bn.
Britain on the other hand, saw a 1.2% increase in foreign aid funding.
So what does the public think?
Although foreign aid is a contentious issue, researchers at the London School of Economics say the public seems to be happy with the UK’s spending on foreign aid. However, surveys released in June show people generally are in favour of giving aid out of a national interest rather than need. So perhaps we’re not as altruistic as we thought.