Debt & Aid

Two big issues seriously affect poor countries’ chances of beating poverty.

One is the amount of aid they get.

The other is the amount of debt they repay.

In 2015, the total public debt owed by developing countries was a staggering $2.4tn - yes, you read that right. The governments of those countries spent $300 billion servicing these debts. The Governments of the 48 'least developed countries', which include countries ravaged by disasters, conflict and disease such as Haiti, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, spent $12 billion servicing foreign debts instead of spending that money on rebuilding roads, getting children back into school, or training doctors.

So let’s do the maths – if a country is spending its precious cash on repaying debts – it doesn’t take a genius to work out that there isn’t much left to spend on vital services such as hospitals and schools.

Cancelling debt can make a massive difference – since Zambia’s debt was cancelled in 2005, its government has been able to scrap the health fees that stopped millions accessing healthcare.

In 1970, rich countries promised to give just 0.7% of their national income as foreign aid. Aid really does work: for example, roads built in Ethiopia mean children can get to school and farmers transport and sell their crops. But 40 years later, only 6 have kept that promise.

The British public have a long tradition of helping those in need overseas. The UK has so far kept its commitment to overseas aid – but isn’t the Robin Hood Tax the obvious way to fund it?

The Robin Hood Tax could raise billions every year to ensure rich countries meet their aid commitments and relieve poor countries' debt.