Under the Shadow of Brexit: A Tipping Point for UK Aid?

by James Copestake

While attention is focused on Brexit, is the UK’s role in the field of international development also being quietly but radically redefined? The headline figures suggest some continuity. The commitment to allocating 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to Official Development Assistance (ODA) was made under Labour, but subsequent governments have held to it, despite ODA budget increases (from £7.4 billion in 2005 to £13.6 billion in 2017) coinciding with heavy cuts in other areas of public expenditure. There has also been continuity in the shift towards outsourcing management of UK ODA, leaving government more in the role of aid commissioner than direct provider of aid services.

However, looking more closely under the bonnet, there are indications of a more radical change. The 2002 International Development Act granted the Department for International Development (DFID) an unambiguous mandate to prioritize poverty elimination. This aligns DFID strongly then with Target 1.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals: to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. (Extreme poverty being for this purpose very narrowly defined as US$1.9 per day at 2011 PPP prices). But to what extent is the growing UK ODA budget still so single-mindedly lined up behind the moral imperative to leave no-one behind? Continue reading

Celebrating Priscilla Wakefield: Financial Inclusion Heroine and Forgotten Feminist Economist

by Susan Johnson

Priscilla Wakefield – the “Mother of Microsavings” – is credited as being the founder of savings banks (Moss 2011). She was a Quaker from Tottenham, North London, and from the Barclays family of banking fame. On 22nd October I had the pleasure of joining citizens and activists to celebrate her achievements and unveil a new plaque in her honour. This was, to the day, the 220th anniversary of the founding of the Tottenham Benefit society for Women and Children, and she subsequently founded Tottenham Savings Bank in 1804. Her philanthropic initiatives also included a School for Industry for girls, a “Lying-in” charity for women (i.e. offering maternity support), and she wrote many educational books for children which were very popular.

Her journey from the Benefit Society to the Savings Bank is a micro prefiguring of the learning journey of the microfinance sector some 200 years later Continue reading

Social cost of the IMF programme

(This blog was originally posted at The Express Tribune)

By  Hari R Lohano

Pakistan is going back to the IMF, the ‘global lender of last resort’, to support the deteriorating level of its balance of payments, its declining foreign exchange reserves, and its difficulty in repaying foreign debts and meeting international financial obligations. In principle, there is nothing wrong with asking an international lender for financial support. However, in the case of the IMF, this is not straightforward.

There are a number of concerns to be addressed even before formally asking for an IMF loan. This is the reason that Imran Khan was in denial about going to the IMF, both before the election and after taking power. The main question about an IMF loan is: ‘What will be the impact of IMF policies on the poor and on the social sector?’ More specifically, what will be the cost of the IMF’s condition that the poor pay to stabilise the country’s economy? Continue reading