International Aid

As Ageing Albion says in his comment (20th September) on “Put British Guns before International Butter”, nothing has changed on International Aid, except we now have a new Secretary of State, Justine Greening, instead of former banker, Andrew Mitchell. Nobody in parliament seems to have caught up with the point that the vast bulk of British aid goes to agencies like the UN and EU, not the supposed beneficiaries (see “The Realities of British Overseas Aid”).

The lesson of all this is to rule out altogether cash transfers to foreign governments, NGOs and consultants: i.e. to provide aid only in the form of actual things and professional people on the ground, e.g. road and hospital building, clean water and telecoms systems using British equipment and engineers. This would save about 90% of the present aid budget (£8 billion) which should be given to the forces to improve their ability to respond to disasters: more men, ships, helicopters and rapid-build housing and sanitation, etc.

Top| Home

5 Responses to “International Aid”

  1. ageing albion says:

    May I add some further conditions to your second paragraph. Not only must aid be delivered (if it is to be delivered at all) in the form you stipulate, it should only be given where (i) it is desired by the recipient nation (which rules out India, who felt insulted by British aid recently); and (ii) more importantly, there are strong reasons to believe it will have a lasting benefit. Simply building schools, hospitals, roads and irrigation in the third world will achieve nothing if the rulers confiscate or mismanage all the assets the minute the British leave.

    The lesson from natural disasters of the past few years is clear, as the Asian Tsunami illustrates. First, most British aid went into the coffers of the corrupt officials, and precious little to anyone who actually needed it.

    Secondly, the BBC and others gleefully focussed on the percentage of GDP each country had pledged, and used it as a stick to hit America with as usual. They omitted to mention that America had also sent a Carrier battlegroup, with more helicopters, desalination capacity and temporary housing capacity than the whole of the EU offered combined.

    But there is a wider lesson to be learned. New Zealand and Japan suffered bad earthquakes in recent years, with nothing like the loss of life or collapse of infrastructure than the poorer countries which suffered the Tsunami. This was because NZ and Japan could afford better buildings before their respective disasters and could organise themselves properly afterwards. Similarly, parts of the US regularly suffer extreme storms but the US is well prepared for these and knows how to respond.

    In other words, the best way to deal with natural disasters is to to be wealthy, and to have first world standards.

    Which brings us right back to where we started on aid. If the right conditions are not in place, aid is wasted. If they are in place, aid is unnecessary.

    Top| Home

  2. ageing albion says:

    I am sure you will have seen the stories in the Telegraph this weekend on the subject – eg

    Further comment seems unnecessary.

    Top| Home

  3. ageing albion says:

    More haplessness from the Cameron government on this issue:

    As someone remarks below the piece, aid is transferring money from the poor people in rich countries (or at least those who cannot afford tax avoidance schemes) to rich people in poor countries.

    Aid should be confined to using the armed forces’ spare capacity to assist in genuine humanitarian emergencies, i.e. disaster relief. Which in turn means we should fund the armed forces so that they actually have some spare capacity.

    Top| Home

  4. Stephen Bush says:

    Professor P.T. Bauer once quipped in the 1980s that foreign aid was “a process by which the poor people of rich countries were made to tranfer money to the rich people of poor countries”. With the UK foreign aid budget about 6% of the yield from UK income tax or about 60% of its disability budget, one would have thought that this was obvious to every British person. But no. In the 2010 election where I stood in the relatively prosperous Suffolk Coastal constituency I got the bigesst jeer of my campaign when I stated Bauer’s maxim. Mind you there were a lot of teachers in the audience. But I got the biggest cheer in the SME and working class districts of Felixstowe. Moralism in the one; realism in the other.

    Top| Home

  5. Ageing Albion says:

    Or a saying from my youth: charity begins at home.

    The teachers gave a predictable response from the sort of people whose income bears no real relationship to any outputs (the civil service and the entire and utterly invidious professional political class, whom Peter Oborne wrote a good book about a few years ago).

    Here are some questions to ask the next bunch of idealists:

    1. Name one country that has been lifted out of poverty by aid.

    2. Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria have substantial oil reserves, as indeed does Russia. They seem no better off than anywhere else in Africa. That should give some clue as to the efficacy of pouring money into such places.

    3. Look at the national debt. Where is the money coming from?

    Top| Home

Leave a Reply

Top| Home