UK likely to cut 1 billion pound aid bill to India



London: Under pressure to slash its annual financial assistance to India, cash-strapped British government is likely to cut its one billion-pound aid bill to the country.

Justine Greening, who took over as Development Secretary last month, said she wants to see Britain's links to richer developing nations become about business, rather than hand-outs.

Greening's comments came amid pressure on her to get better value for money from Britain's 12 billion-pound annual spending on countries like China and India, which have their own space programme.

Signalling that India will be a target for cuts, she said, "We should recognise that as countries get richer, we need to be responsible about how we transition in our relationship with them from aid to trade."

"Those are the discussions that I am having with the Indian government at the moment," Greening said at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham.

Greening also pledged to stop programmes that are not working because of corruption or inefficiency, amid criticism of many old schemes.

"I'm going to take a new approach to ensure that every pound we spend has the biggest possible impact," she was quoted as saying by 'The Telegraph'. "That may well mean stopping programmes where I don't think they are working and putting the money elsewhere."

Prime Minister David Cameron has come under criticism for promising to keep spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid during the recession.

There is growing unrest among backbenchers in the party and Lord Ashcroft, a major donor and Number 10 adviser, recently called for the "golden taps to be turned off".

Greening said she is planning to take a more ruthless look at cost control but added it was "smart" for Britain to spend money on aid to help international security.

"I believe in development," she said. "It is in all our interests for countries around the world to be stable and secure, to have educated and healthy populations, and to have growing economies."

She also pledged to make sure the European Union spends its money more wisely.

"I don't think it's right that the EU still gives money to those countries higher up the income scale, when we've taken the decision to target the poorest," Greening was quoted as saying by the paper.

PTI