Two of the hot buttons in UK politics right now (alongside the National Health Service) are: international aid and defence. The Conservative-led coalition (presumably pushed by its Liberal Democrat partners) has taken the controversial decision to increase international aid at the same time as cutting most other budgets including defence.
It is obvious why these decisions should generate heat at a time of economic pain at home and an over-stretched military
in Afghanistan. But, across the world, these two areas of government spending should be linked.
The largest donors of international aid (measured as a percentage of their GDP) are as follows:
What does this all mean? Well, these stats cover the democracies of the West plus Australia, New Zealand and Japan, and so defence spending is usually expected to involve military deployment in the world’s hot spots. It is thus possible to assert that these spending scores reflect the countries’ varying views on how best to help make the world a better place: by helping to develop and/or defend countries.
Conversely, governments like the UK (No. 3 in defence and 6 in international aid) might like to explain to voters why they are so keen to punch far above their weight. UK politicians might find that a pretty uncomfortable discussion. But, then, there’s a lot of history.