A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

David Cameron Is Obsessed With Foreign Aid

India still has aircraft carriers. Why are we sending them so much money?

David Cameron ought to be reminded that charity begins at home. It was revealed today that he has attempted to up the foreign aid budget yet again, and, despite the public disapproval of Defence Secretary Liam Fox, it looks set to go ahead. Two things strike me about this decision: one, why is David Cameron so eager to appease the Liberal Democrats in his Cabinet, even the hotheads like Chris Huhne, yet so contemptuous of the Tory right? Yes, the Liberal Democrats can pull the plug on the coalition, but so can constant internal feuds, if he's not careful. And, besides, they have to stay in the coalition as much as the Tories do, as the prospect of economic recovery is the only way they can boost their dismal poll ratings, and Nick Clegg relies on the coalition for his continued leadership of the party.

Two, why is David Cameron so willing to increase foreign aid spending in the first place? Is there any rational logic behind it, or is it just political grandstanding? I know that some aid is tied up with corporate contracts that sweeten the deal when companies from more than one nation are competing for a multi-billion dollar prize, and that sometimes the money can do towards projects that do genuinely boost our influence in the region and our national security, but the budget as it was under Gordon Brown covered that. Why, exactly, was it increased, and why has it been increased again? Surely, a nation that has aircraft carriers - a valuable, if somewhat outdated, asset that we sorely lack - and a space programme can improve its own infrastructure and the provision of basic services, without needing hundreds of millions of pounds of our money?

And as for sending money to Pakistan, does David Cameron even watch the news? Until the business with rogue elements of the ISI is cleared up, we shouldn't send them a penny of public funds. The justification that aid prevents terrorism by reducing poverty and inequality is flimsy: if there are elements of the security forces sheltering the most wanted terrorist in the world, the few pennies that reach the federal tribal areas aren't going to have any real impact on the threat level from Pakistan. And if it is true that aid does prevent extremism, then why not spend the money on the impoverished Islamic ghettoes in London, Bradford, and Luton, where many of our 'homegrown terrorists' and radical preachers have spawned from?

The budget is set to rise to £11.9 billion over the course of this parliament, up to 0.7% of GDP. That is an enormous figure at a time of such financial crisis and cutbacks, more than what we spend on either the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force, and five times what we spend annually on the war in Afghanistan. How many improvements could be made to the lives of London's poorer communities and inner-city slums with that money? I do not disagree with the supporters of this policy when they say that people starving should be more of a priority than guns and tasks; in fact, I agree wholeheartedly with what they say. But there are plenty of people - hundreds of thousands of them -who are below the poverty line in the UK, who will be crippled by rising utility bills, the rising cost of living, rising inflation, and falling wages. Why don't we help them instead?

David Cameron is advocating the wrong policy, at the wrong time, and there seems to be no sense behind it whatsoever. Even if there was, the money could still be better spent closer to home. When Britain returns to a budget surplus, then we can consider giving foreign aid to countries that need it, provided that they are allied to us and reward British companies with lucrative business contracts that go some way to paying us back for our investment. But at the moment, Britain has the largest budget deficit in western Europe and is enforcing harsh budget cutbacks in every area of government, and the attitude of some of the countries that we are sending money to towards us is ambiguous, at best. What, exactly, is the government playing at?

1 comment:

  1. The liberal elite who rule this country just don't have a clue; they have no idea about how much poverty there is in this country. Several years ago when I was doing voluntary work I was in the office when a woman came in and a few minutes later fainted because she hadn't eaten for three days...then there was the man walking fifteen miles a day to attend college because he couldn't afford the bus fare...and of course, there's myself, diagnosed with chronic bronchitis three years ago because for ten years I couldn't afford to heat the house properly during the winter.

    Charity begins at home Mr. Cameron...mind you, your family doesn't need any.