Penny Mordaunt: will the new DfID boss change the UK’s foreign aid policy?
Minister named as Priti Patel’s replacement yesterday
The appointment of Penny Mordaunt to replace Priti Patel as International Development Secretary has put the spotlight on the department and the foreign aid budget - so are drastic changes in the pipeline?
Britain spends about £11bn on foreign aid each year. In 2016, the UK committed by law to spend 0.7% of its gross national income on aid every year - the first G7 country to meet this UN target.
Theresa May was called upon to axe that pledge, inherited from David Cameron, but faced down right-wingers in her party, reports The Independent.
The Daily Express and the Daily Mail have both demanded that the aid budget be cut, and the money redirected to the National Health Service.
Where does Mordaunt stand on foreign aid?
“While Mordaunt has long experience with the military, both as a reservist and as a former armed forces minister, she has not made many public statements on international aid,” says The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow.
Within the Department for International Development (DfID), “there will be few tears shed for the loss of Patel, a long-standing sceptic of the aid budget who civil servants felt was aiming to gently suffocate the department from within”, says the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush.
“There is disappointment, however, that instead of getting one of a number of talented politicians who have both experience and a passion for the brief, they are getting a politician with little in the way of a background or a passion for the project.”
On the other hand, there is some cause for optimism, as Mordaunt was previously an aid worker, in Romania following the fall of leader Nicolae Ceausescu.
What may be first on Mordaunt’s agenda?
The Independent Commission for Aid Impact reported this week that the UK is awarding ever more aid contracts to British firms, despite previous pledges to favour suppliers in developing countries. At least nine in ten contracts in 2016-17 went to companies registered in Britain, up from about 75% in 2013.
Only 3% of the “£1.4bn spent by DfID on suppliers helping carry out global projects last year went to those in developing countries, falling far short of a UN-agreed target”, says Reuters.
Britain agreed at last year’s World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul to commit a quarter of aid funding directly to local and national organisations in developing nations by 2020.