I have consistently advocated that the UK scrap its entire foreign aid budget on dual grounds. Firstly Britain is almost bankrupt and we cannot afford to be generous. And secondly foreign aid never helps those it is meant to help, it is merely a transfer of wealth from poor folks in rich countries to (the Swiss bank accounts of) rich people in poor countries. You can check out a couple of my pieces on this matter HERE. and HERE. to show that I am not exactly new to this subject. But today comes a damning report on this matter from the think tank Civitas. It is not the conclusions which are worth noting (they are hardly surprising) but what it says about the gaping gap between our political and media elite and the rest of us. You and I. The plebs.
The Civitas study shows that our foreign aid budget which is set to increase by 30% this year as spending on so much else is pared back, does not actually help poor people on the ground. That is damning. But more damning is the way that it shows how the increase in spending on foreign aid is not driven by demonstrable need in the third world but by David Cameron’s determination to hit his target of spending 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid.
Why did Call Me Dave set such a silly target? Would he still have met it had GDP halved? It was all part of his attempts to show that the Conservative party was not a “nasty” party. Dave cares. But he shows he cares by spending billions of quid of YOUR money, not his.
The whole debate about how much we should hand out in the cash for kleptocrats department or whether we should spend it on dual purpose programmes or tie it to trade, etc is a Westminster debate. The political classes (and the Beltway classes of the media world) argue ad infinitum about the subject in terms of morality. But it is we plebs who must pay for whatever moral code they decide on.
In the real world some of we ordinary citizens appreciate that the UK is heading for bankruptcy. Most seem to appreciate that the Government must cut back. Poll after poll shows that most folks would rather cut foreign aid and not, for instance, have to fire soldiers serving on the front line. I am sure that I am far from alone in believing we should scrap our aid budget altogether and if politicians were truthful about the mess our State finances are in most folks would, I suspect, want to end the donations to despots programmes altogether.
The author of the Civitas report takes a similar line on the alienation of the political elite from “ordinary folk” who stump up the taxes that keeps the Westminster farce playing. Jonathan Foreman states that Britain’s political elite, who all back the aid increase, are more interested in helping the poor abroad than at home. ‘Such people are perhaps more likely to engage with poor Africans and South Asians on their holidays than they are to encounter needy people in their own country,’ he writes.
He is right. Back in the Westminster hothouse the parasites merely argue about how much we should increase spending by. It may make them feel better but it merely makes us plebs who pay for this all despise them all the more.