LONDON (Reuters) - More than 400 people wearing Chancellor George Osborne masks marched to parliament in central London on Tuesday, campaigning for overseas development aid and against tax avoidance.
Ahead of Wednesday’s budget - expected to pile on more austerity pain - the flashmob called on Osborne to keep his promise to ringfence foreign aid and to close corporate tax loopholes in Britain and in developing countries.
International aid, health and schools are the only areas the government has pledged to exempt from deep public sector spending cuts as it tries to reduce its budget deficit.
Official Development Assistance spending is on track to reach 0.7 percent of Gross National Income from 2013 compared with 0.56 percent in 2012, according to last year’s Autumn statement.
But calls have been growing for overseas aid to face the same cuts as domestic departments.
The activists all wore dark suits along with the masks and each carried a replica of the famous red ministerial budget briefcase with the slogan “Enough Food for Everyone If” written on it.
Braving the morning cold, the crowd formed the word “IF” on the muddy lawn on parliament square, in support of the Enough Food IF campaign against global hunger. The campaign is backed by all major anti-poverty charities in the UK, including ActionAid, Oxfam and Save the Children.
“We all want to make sure that he (Osborne) doesn’t forget about the promise to enshrine the 0.7 percent for overseas aid,” said Daniel Collins, 28, who got up at 5.30am to take part in the demonstration.
He added: “We need to make sure that British companies are transparent when they’re working in developing countries and that they’re paying the taxes in these countries that they should.”
Reporting By Shadia Nasralla