Many rich countries have made repeated commitments to the United Nations to give at least 0.7% of their gross national income (GNY) as international aid – or ‘official development assistance (ODA)’ as it is known. The first such commitments were made in 1970. Despite this, many of these countries’ aid to developing countries falls well short of the target.

In fact the average amount given in aid in 2011 by the 23 donor countries which are members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) was a mere 0.31% of GNY, with the USA, the biggest donor in absolute terms, giving only 0.2% of GNY. (Click here for a PowerPoint of the chart.) Since 2003, the DAC average has been 0.29% as compared with 0.30% between 1970 and 2002.

In 2005, at the Gleneagles G8 summit, the 15 members of the EU which are Development Assistance Committee members committed themselves to reaching an ODA target of 0.51% of GNY in 2010 and to reach the 0.7% target by 2015. In 2011, the UK’s ODA/GNY ratio stood at 0.56% and so was above the EU target.

Section 18 of the Coalition agreement pledges that the UK government will meet the 0.7% target by 2013 – a pledge initially made by the Labour government. So far, the government has stuck to this pledge and the aid budget has escaped cuts.

But with other parts of government expenditure facing cuts, pressure is mounting on the government to reduce the aid budget. There are two main parts to the argument. The first is that aid should face its ‘fair share’ of the cuts. The second is that aid is often an inefficient way of tackling poverty in developing countries and, when discussing aid, the focus should be on getting value for money rather than on the simple total amount of aid.

The following articles look at arguments for and against meeting aid targets and examine ways of making aid ‘smarter’.


Money may be tight, but ‘smart aid’ to developing countries can really work The Guardian, Larry Elliott (13/1/13)
International aid, but not as we know it The Guardian, Andy Sumner and Richard Mallett (31/12/12)
One in four support Britain’s foreign aid policies The Telegraph, Ben Leach (29/12/12)
Why is so much UK aid money still going to companies based in Britain? The Guardian, Claire Provost and Nicola Hughes (21/9/12)
Is the 0.7% aid target still relevant? The Guardian, Niels Keijzer (2/8/12)
What’s wrong with foreign aid? The Spectator (3/1/13)
Five reasons to deliver and legislate on international aid bond, UKAN (6/12)
The Political Economy of Bilateral Foreign Aid Working Knowledge, Harvard Business School, Eric D. Werker (4/1/13)
Misconceptions about aid Dawn (Pakistan), Niaz Murtaza (8/1/13)
Why political short-sightedness and randomised control trials can be a deadly mix for aid effectiveness Vox EU, Anders Olofsgård (13/10/12)
Aid in troubled times DfID, Paul Collier (2/7/12)

Data and information
Aid Effectiveness data World Bank
Aid statistics OECD
Aid effectiveness OECD
Aid Wikipedia


  1. What was agreed at the Gleneagles G8 summit?
  2. Examine the argument that aid crowds out private investment.
  3. Compare the relative benefits of tied and untied aid.
  4. Give some examples of ‘smart aid’.
  5. How would you establish whether or not it is ‘fair’ to cut the aid budget?
  6. Give three arguments for maintaining the aid budget and three arguments for cutting it. On which side do you come down and why?

If you are lucky enough to have piles of money earning interest in a bank account, one thing you don’t want to be doing is facing the dreaded tax bill on the interest earned. It is for this reason that many wealthy people put their savings into bank accounts in Switzerland and other countries with strict secrecy laws. Countries, such as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Andorra, Liberia and the Principality of Monaco have previously had laws in place to prevent the effective exchange of information. This had meant that you could keep your money in an account there and the UK authorities would be unable to obtain any information for their tax records.

However, as part of an ongoing OECD initiative against harmful tax practices, more and more countries have been opening up to the exchange of information. In recent developments, Switzerland and the UK have signed an agreement, which will see them begin to negotiate on improving information exchange. In particular, the UK will be looking at the possibility of the Swiss authorities imposing a tax on any interest earned in their accounts by UK residents. This tax would be on behalf of HM Revenue and Customs. One concern, however, with this attempted crack down on tax evasion is that ‘innocent’ taxpayers could be the ones to suffer.

The following articles consider this recent development. It is also a good idea to look at the following link, which takes you to the OECD to view some recent agreements between the UK and other countries with regard to tax policy and the exchange of information. (The OECD)


UK in talks over taxing Britons’ Swiss bank accounts BBC News (26/10/10)
Doubts on plans to tackle tax evasion Telegraph, Myra Butterworth (21/10/10)
HMRC letters target taxpayers with Swiss bank accounts BBC News (25/10/10)
Spending Review: Can the taxman fix the system? BBC News, Kevin Peachey (22/10/10)
Britain, Switzerland agree to begin tax talks AFP (26/10/10)
Treasury to get £1 billion windfall in Swiss deal over secret bank accounts Guardian, Phillip Inman (26/10/10)
Swiss to help UK tax secret accounts Reuters (25/10/10)

The OECD’s Project on Hamful Tax Practices, 2006 Update on Progress in Member Countries The OECD, Centre for Tax Policy and Administration 2006
A Progress Report on the Jurisdictions surveyed by the OECD global forum in implementing the internationally agreed tax standard The OECD, Centre for Tax Policy and Administration (19/10/10)


  1. Is there a difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion?
  2. If there is crack down on tax evasion, what might be the impact on higher earners? How could this potential policy change adversely affect the performance of the UK economy?
  3. If tax evasion is reduced, what are the likely positive effects on everyday households?
  4. Is clamping down on tax evasion cost effective?
  5. What might be the impact on people’s willingness to work, especially of those on higher wages, if there is no longer a ‘haven’ where they can save their money?
  6. How could tax reform help the UK reduce its budget deficit?

In the UK, we have an inflation target of 2% and it’s the Bank of England’s job to use monetary policy, in particular interest rates, to keep inflation within 1 percentage point of its target. However, with rising commodity prices and the onset of recession back in 2008, interest rates had another objective: to prevent or at least lessen the recession. Bank Rate fell to 0.5% and there it has remained in a bid to encourage investment, discourage saving and increase consumption, as a means of stimulating the economy.

However, at such a low rate, interest rates are not acting as a brake on inflation, which is now well above target. This rise in inflation, has been largely brought about by cost-push factors, such as the restoration of the 17.5% VAT (up from the temporary 15%), higher oil and commodity prices, and a fall in the exchange rate. But part of the reason might be found in the increase in money supply that resulted from quantitative easing.

There are concerns that the UK may lose its credibility on inflation if action isn’t taken. The OECD has advised the Bank of England to raise Bank Rate to 3.5% by the end of 2011. The following articles consider this issue.


Time to worry about inflation? BBC News blogs, Stephanomics, Stephanie Flanders (28/5/10)
UK must not fall for the false promise of higher inflation Telegraph, Charles Bean, Deputy Governor of the Bank of England (4/6/10)

Reports and documents
General Assessment of the Macroeconomic Situation OECD Economic Outlook, No. 87 Chapter 1 (see especially pages 53–4) (May 2010)
United Kingdom – Country Summary OECD Economic Outlook, No. 87 (May 2010)
Statistical Annex OECD Economic Outlook, No. 87 (available 10/6/10)
Inflation Report portal Bank of England (see May 2010)


  1. Explain the relationship between interest rates and inflation. Why have such low interest rates caused inflation to increase?
  2. In 2008, the UK moved into recession, but was also suffering from inflation. This was unusual, as AD/AS analysis suggests that when aggregate demand falls, growth will fall, but so will prices. What can explain the low growth and inflation we saw in 2008?
  3. What is the difference between real and nominal GDP?
  4. What are the causes of the current high inflation and what solutions are available and viable?
  5. Why are expectations of inflation so important and how might they influence the Bank of England’s plans for interest rates?
  6. Do you think the OECD should have advised the Bank of England? Will there be any adverse effects internationally if the UK doesn’t heed the OECD’s advice?
  7. Is the OECD’s assessment of the UK in the above Country Summary consistent with its view on UK interest rates contained in pages 53 and 54 in the first OECD link?

The OECD published its latest interim assessment of the world economy on April 7. This showed a world gradually bouncing back from recession, with growing GDP (albeit at variable speeds in different countries), rising industrial production, increasing business confidence, a stabilising of financial markets, an easing of credit conditions and yet continuing low inflation.

The UK is forecast to have an annualised rate of growth of GDP in quarter 2 of 3.1%. This is the second highest of the G7 countries, behind only Canada. This would seem like good news – an economic spring for the UK.

Despite continuing growth in the OECD countries, in most of them recovery is fragile. The OECD thus recommends caution in removing the stimulus measures adopted in most countries and hence caution in embarking on measures to cut public-sector deficits. As the report states:

Despite some encouraging signs on activity, the fragility of the recovery, a frail labour market and possible headwinds coming from financial markets underscore the need for caution in the removal of policy support. Central banks have already begun to rein in the exceptional liquidity stimulus injected during the recession. Further action in this area will need to be guided by financial conditions. The normalisation of policy interest rates should be carried out at a pace that will be contingent on the strength of the recovery in individual countries and the outlook for inflation beyond the near-term projection horizon. As for fiscal policy, the sharp increase in government indebtedness in the OECD area during the downturn calls for ambitious, clearly communicated medium-term consolidation programmes in many countries. Consolidation should start in 2011, or earlier where needed, and progress gradually so as not to undermine the incipient recovery.

The following webcast from the OECD presents the report.

Interim Assessment OECD, Pier Carlo Padoan, OECD Chief Economist (7/4/10)

Portal to report and webcast OECD
What is the economic outlook for OECD countries? An interim assessment OECD, Pier Carlo Padoan (7/4/10)

Economy set to speed up and beat UK’s rivals, says OECD Independent, Sean O’Grady (8/4/10)
Economy poised for rapid expansion Financial Times, Norma Cohen and Daniel Pimlot (8/4/10)
OECD sees slower growth in US, Europe, Japan Sydney Morning Herald (8/4/10)
UK business confidence ‘hits four-year high’ BBC News (12/4/10)
British companies confident of recovery but need investment, BDO warns Telegraph, Angela Monaghan (12/4/10)


  1. What are the main findings in the report?
  2. What are the policy implications of the findings?
  3. What are the implications of developments in financial markets? What are the possible ‘headwinds’?
  4. What factors could threaten the recovery of the UK economy?

On the eve of the September 5/6 G20 meeting of Finance Ministers in London, the OECD published an interim forecast of the macroeconomic and financial performance of the G7 economies. According to the OECD, “Recovery from the global recession is likely to arrive earlier than had been expected a few months ago but the pace of activity will remain weak well into next year.” So is it time to start reversing the various fiscal and monetary stimuli adopted around the world? Or should governments and central banks continue to stimulate aggregate demand in order to maintain the fragile recovery? The following news releases, speeches and articles look at answers given to these questions by various countries and international institutions.

Recovery arriving quicker than expected but activity will remain weak, says OECD OECD News release (3/9/09)
What is the economic outlook for OECD countries? An interim assessment OECD Economic Outlook, Interim Assessment (3/9/09)
IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn sees Renewed Stability but remains cautious about Global Economic Recovery, notes need for Continued Policy Actions IMF press release (4/9/09)
Beyond the Crisis: Sustainable Growth and a Stable International Monetary System Speech by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (4/9/09)
Brown urges further G20 spending (video) Gordon Brown on BBC News (5/9/09)
America’s Timothy Geithner says it’s ‘too early’ to withdraw economic stimulus Telegraph (3/9/09)
Finance chiefs warn against early end to state support for eurozone economies Guardian (3/9/09)
Keep spending – Darling warns G20 against complacency Independent (3/9/09)
Brown’s agenda deserves a hearing Financial Times (1/9/09)
Tories join Germany and France in call for exit strategy from G20 bailout Times Online (3/9/09)
UK recession: Why are we lagging our neighbours? Telegraph (3/9/09)

Reflections after the conference:
After the shock, challenges remain BBC News (7/9/09)
The G20 has saved us, but it’s failing to rein in those who caused the crisis Observer (6/9/09)
The world is as one on not endangering recovery Times Online (t/9/09)


  1. Why is the pace of recovery in the G7 countries likely to be modest for some time?
  2. Why have unemployment rates risen much more rapidly in some countries than in others (see page 19 of the OECD report)?
  3. Referring to the OECD report, how would you summarise changes in the global financial situation over the past few months?
  4. Assess the arguments put forward by France and Germany for reining in their expansionary fiscal and monetary policies.
  5. Why is the UK economy, according to the OECD, likely to be the last of the G7 countries to pull out of recession?