Skyscrapers and slums – the debate on aid to India rumbles on

Today’s announcement by Justine Greening that there will be no new UK aid grants made to India has reignited the debate on aid, particularly to emerging economies.

Lets’ remind ourselves of a few points:

  • We already knew that the UK Government was winding down aid to India ending all programmes by 2015
  • DFID is maintaining its commitment and will continue to fund and complete current programmes already under way

The latest decision made by the International Development Secretary to not invest in new aid programmes was agreed in consultation with the Indian Government. The change reflects the new political and economic environment that we’re now in which requires a change in the way we finance development.

Tearfund’s Head of Policy, Laura Taylor gave an interview on BBC News this afternoon sharing her experience on a visit to northern India and explained that despite India’s impressive economic growth, two-thirds of the population are living in poverty.

In fact there are still more poor people in India than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Many Indians are blighted by pollution, flooding, poor drainage and lack of amenities. In addition frequent floods and droughts intensify village hardships.

We know that British aid has achieved a lot from enabling 1.2 million Indian children access education to reaching over 1.6 million women with credit, financial and skills development since 2003[1]. And there’s more to be done through targeted programmes which do not neglect the poorest.

That’s why as Laura explained, in addition to the UK sticking to its aid commitments we need to look at innovative ways to better finance poverty reduction programmes. One way to do this could be revenue from a Green Climate Fund, which would make billions of pounds of difference to the poorest who are the hardest hit and are struggling to adapt to changing climates.

Today’s decision has its pros and cons and we’ve been having this debate about India for a while as my colleague Sarah Hulme blogged about the topic previously.

Through our work with partners on the ground, Tearfund continues to invest in some of India’s poorest communities providing basic services such as education and health, but also giving them the tools to make sure they can monitor their government’s spending choices.

We mustn’t turn our backs on the millions of people who live in poverty or fail to help them build strong governments, businesses and societies of their own.



  1. Thanks for this really good blog and great to hear that Laura had the opportunity to be interviewed on BBC News. I can certainly resonate with that from a visit to India. I do think there is a real opportunity to harness, engage and use the wealth creation and aspects of affluence in India to bring hope and transformation. I however also think that despite this growth there is a real case for ongoing Aid to work alongside this investment to bring hope and transformation.

  2. Thank you for reminding us that the focus of aid programmes has to be upon the needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged wherever they happen to live. It is important that this decision by DFID does not become a precursor of failing to sustain the commitment to 0.7% of GDP being directed towards aid. Political parties are considering their policy frameworks and likely manifesto proposals for the next General Election right now so this is exactly the moment to press for the maintenance of the aid commitment.

  3. carolinemaxwell2012 says:

    Many thanks for your comments. If you missed it yesterday you can watch our interview on the BBC: Tearfund v Tax Payers Alliance on aid to India

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