A Historic Day

20 Mar 2013

This will be RESULTS' 1,000th blog post, and there is no better issue to be writing about than the news that George Osborne, the UK's Chancellor, has just delivered his budget for 2013-14 that includes making good a promise the UK first made forty years ago.

In this budget, for the first time, Osborne has committed the UK to spending 0.7% of GNI (Gross National Income) on aid. It is difficult to overestimate how amazing this is.

First, what does that actually mean? In real terms, it means that the Department for International Development will have its overall budget increased to £10.7bn for 2013-14 and maintained in future years. This sounds like a lot of money, and it is: it is the kind of money that changes things.

What does it change? For one example, lets look at the money the UK Government invested in the GAVI Alliance (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation). The £814m pledged in 2011 meant that the UK taxpayer was saving a child's life every two minutes from 2011 right through to 2015. This isn't something abstract - these are real children who get to live because of our support, with even more not falling ill. Even better, GAVI has a system whereby countries that benefit from this assistance take on the cost of vaccination themselves over time, so this makes it a truly catalytic investment.

The same is true for our investments in an organisation called the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (known as The Global Fund for short). The Global Fund is so effective at fighting those three diseases that it is now saving more than three thousand lives every day. The return on investment, in terms of lives saved and suffering and misery avoided, is immense. The UK now has the mandate to increase its investment in lifesaving, efficient, and effective organisations like the Global Fund, and it should do so.

What this latest announcement isn't - and we should be very clear about this - is unaffordable. The Government has rightly pegged our aid budget to a percentage of GNI. In fact, 0.7% of GNI is a very tiny part of the UK's overall spending. Once you get past a few thousand, most of us have trouble putting big numbers into context. So, anything measured in billions might sound like a lot, until you realise that the numbers you're comparing them to are measured in trillions. Increasing the aid budget in this way costs us, individually, pennies - but those pennies make a tremendous difference in the world.

David Cameron and George Osborne have pressed ahead with making this historic commitment despite loud opposition, much of it from within their own party. It is to their absolute credit that they have engaged intelligently and articulately with those aid doubters and repeatedly made the case for why aid spending is not just the moral thing to do, but the smart thing to do.

Most importantly, they've put their money where their mouth is. The result will be a powerful force for good in the world.

This is a day that should make every British person proud.

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