August 23, 2017

We should cut foreign aid

Peter Divey believes the rate of foreign aid spending should be reduced until the deficit is eliminated and austerity fades. 

There is one issue almost as divisive as Brexit, the commitment by Britain to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid. That will be about £13.5 billion over the 2017/18 cycle. Worldwide only the U.S. and Germany spend more. It was as far back as 1970 that the UN initially proposed wealthy nations meet this requirement. Britain first met this pledge voluntarily in 2013 and by 2015 it had been written into law. With the continued financial squeeze in an effort to reduce the deficit this generosity has come under ever closer scrutiny and It has been all too easy to identify a series of mistakes, misjudgements and outright scandals. Performance does not seem to be improving.

Priti Patel is the minister who oversees this largesse and she defends it strongly, arguing that foreign aid spending will reinforce the post-Brexit globalist outlook of ‘brand Britain’ …or something, only a policy wonk could come up with a sound bite like that. Let’s dissect that; it is the use of the word brand that concerns me most, as if all this money was nothing more than hyper-advertising to build up Britain as if it were, say, Colman’s mustard. Brand loyalty is everything, but really? That won’t amount to a hill of beans in the real world of increasingly sceptical voters in an age of austerity. Look to home first many say… foodbanks, social care and health rationing, homelessness… a long list.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office prefer to say that it is a projection of “soft” power. Soft power gives you influence. It keeps you on the radar. This has become a popular mantra recycled by many MP’s under pressure from constituents. It is of course a different sort of power to the “hard” type that will hopefully be projected by our two new super-carriers from about 2023. Assuming those F-35B fighter jets are able to see off something more aggressive than one of those large, hungry seaside gulls swooping for your chips…

Foreign aid spending is supported across all sides of the political spectrum; it is the right thing to do, the moral thing… I think it needs reviewing, reduce the rate of foreign aid spending, at least until the deficit is eliminated and austerity fades. That would need a change in the law, which means traversing both Houses. Gina Miller would probably object because that must be a diminution of someone’s rights… At the moment Britain is still borrowing at the alarming rate of £100,000 per minute… and virtue signalling turned into foreign policy all paid for by our children and grandchildren, so that MP’s can feel virtuous… Colman’s mustard is hot and a liberal dollop on your chips to keep them pesky gulls off may be of more practical virtue, but perhaps beyond the purview of the Foreign office.

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Peter Divey
Peter Divey's dormant interest in British and American politics has been reawakened by last year's Brexit referendum result and Trump's ascendency to the White House. In his spare time he enjoys playing chess and has a growing collection of vintage wrist watches.
  • The way to save the absolutely vital 0.7 per cent overseas aid target is to police where the money goes. We give aid to China, which has landed a rocket on the Moon. We also fund India’s foreign aid budget precisely. As a result, India has the money for a mission to Mars. That’s right, Mars. We are paying towards Nigeria’s active aspiration to launch a rocket into space by 2028. The Statute Law should specify that the United Kingdom’s aid to any given country be reduced by the exact cost of any space programme, or of any nuclear weapons programme, or of any nuclear submarine programme, or of any foreign aid budget of that country’s own. The money thus saved would, however, have to remain within the budget of the Department for International Development. With her Nigerian background, the highly capable Kate Osamor is ideally placed to make the case for this change.

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