A report questioning how Britain’s aid funding is spent has revealed more than £700,000 has been allocated for the ‘friendship benches’ – aimed at encouraging people to discuss their mental health – and a £1 million project to ‘raise awareness’ of the health benefits of varieties of dark rice – such as brown and black – over white rice in Asia.
More than £80,000 was spent in 2019-20 on encouraging greener hammams in Morocco to ‘facilitate the acceleration of ecological transitions processes’. Meanwhile, a £1.2 million budget has been set aside for an ongoing project to teach children in Bangladesh and Pakistan about the dangers of second-hand smoke.
Conservative MP Peter Bone said the projects were ‘mind-bogglingly stupid’ and ‘almost appear to be designed just so the aid budget can be spent’. He added: ‘We need an aid budget that helps countries develop and helps in humanitarian disasters’
£1m has been spent on advising people in Asia the health benefits of brown and black rice
Conservative MP Peter Bone said the projects were ‘mind-bogglingly stupid’ and ‘almost appear to be designed just so the aid budget can be spent’. He added: ‘We need an aid budget that helps countries develop and helps in humanitarian disasters.’
The list of ten ‘wasteful’ projects was drawn up by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which has campaigned to cut the aid budget. Its report comes after the Government announced that it plans to restore its controversial target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid – which in recent years reached about £15 billion.
The United Nations established the 0.7 per cent benchmark in 1970, though few countries reach it. David Cameron passed legislation to bind the UK to the commitment when he was Prime Minister, and the pledge was repeated in the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto.
Last year Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced plans to cut the aid commitment to 0.5 per cent as the economy slumped during the pandemic. However these plans have since been scaled back over fears of a Tory rebellion.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Taxpayers were fed up with billions being squandered overseas long before we were hit with the worst recession in a generation.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘We are running a prioritisation exercise across our aid budget to ensure every pound we spend goes as far as possible.’