LONDON: The British government faced fury on Wednesday over its decision to ditch its long-standing target for overseas aid in the wake of what it described as the deepest recession in over three centuries.

In a statement to lawmakers, Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the target to allocate 0.7 per cent of national income to overseas aid will be cut to 0.5pc. The move is expected to free up 4 billion pounds ($5.3 billion) for the Conservative government to use elsewhere, money that critics say could be used to save tens of thousands of lives in the poorest parts of the world.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week announced Britain’s biggest programme of military investment since the end of the Cold War with extra spending of 16.5 billion pounds, as the country positions itself for a post-EU future.

While expressing great respect to those who have argued passionately to retain this target, Sunak said sticking rigidly to it is difficult to justify” to people at a time when the economy has been so battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

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