On Thursday 21 April, the foreign secretary laid out the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) spending plans for 2021-22 in a written statement, specifying the amounts that will be spent against each of the seven priorities he outlined in November 2020.
This follows a written statement made in January which presented a breakdown of the 2021-22 aid budget by department.
Understanding the implications of this new budget and how what will be spent compares with spending in previous years is complicated by how the information has been presented. There are three main reasons a year-on-year comparison is so difficult, even taking 2019 as a baseline.
- The seven priority areas do not directly align with the categories used in the Statistics for International Development series or in available IATI reporting data. This makes it difficult to know if we are comparing like with like.
- Aid budget data is presented using different time periods for different purposes. Some use calendar year (CY), others use financial year (FY), which are not the same thing. The 0.7% commitment is based on calendar year and in line with OECD DAC reporting, as are the Statistics for International Development. The FCDO’s budget has been presented for the current financial year (FY – April-March). This means the time periods don’t correspond.
- Other aid spending government departments have not released similar budget breakdowns by priority areas (or otherwise), so we do not have a complete picture of how UK aid will be spent in FY 2021-22.
Therefore, drawing year on year comparisons to understand where the FCDO’s FY 21-22 budget means cuts have fallen is difficult. It is clear, however, that these are significant cuts across the board, and even within the government’s recently stated priorities.
This briefing outlines what we know so far.