Overseas Aid – Yes, It Is An Unaffordable Luxury…

Barbara Ellen on the growing opposition to overseas aid:

It has been unnerving, in recent days, to observe the scene being set by those who oppose overseas aid and who feel sneeringly confident of ultimate victory.

Unnerving because you know it resonates with the public?

Only Gordon Brown, in his bid for the IMF job, stood up for the world’s poor, practically begging countries to keep their G8 education pledges.

Well, actually, he stood up for Gordon Brown’s chances of winning the IMF job. He cares no more for ‘the poor’ than I do…

Meanwhile, all around there are sulky murmurings against the very notion of helping Johnny Foreigner, when we have our own deficit to deal with. “We cannot afford to help other nations when we are struggling ourselves.”

By George, I think she’s got it!

Oh. Wait. Maybe not:

Finances and affording it aside, where the ethics of aid are concerned, could we seriously afford not to?

Yes. Quite easily.

Much has been made of the fact that certain countries don’t deserve aid anymore (“Russia, China, India? They’re having a larf!”), but many of these are to be dropped from the register; those remaining still have huge bands of desperate poverty. Then there is the “it goes straight to bandits or dictators” argument. Yup, the world is complicated, but if aid agencies already have an ongoing struggle keeping a grip on chaotic infrastructures, surely robbing them of key finance is the cruellest and dumbest thing to do? Then there is the argument that these agreements were reached years ago, in “better times”. All the more reason, then, not to renege: aid agencies depend on this financial support and have doubtless built years of strategies around it; they will be thrown into total chaos if it’s removed.

Well, that’s a lot of reasons not to stop, but strangely, I don’t find any of them very plausible.

And nor, I suspect, will anyone else who isn’t heavily invested in the charity/aid business, or the progressive lifestyle.

It is terrifying to think that the anti-aid mindset might take root, that people might end up being manipulated by self-interested politicians, anxious to divert attention away from cuts.

No, I think you’ll find that it’s the public that are driving this, in the teeth of reluctant politicians.

Debate is always healthy, but this doesn’t feel like a debate, more like the coalition-right slyly beginning the process of closing a door that was previously open.

No, once again, it’s not the politicians wanting this door closed at all; rather, they are straining to keep it open, the better to strut the world’s stage being generous with other people’s money…

What seems to have been overlooked is that most Britons aren’t heartless or, indeed, stupid. Post-Live Aid, it has become inbuilt in the national psyche that aid is not an unaffordable luxury, rather an economic necessity, if we don’t want half the globe to collapse around us.

If that were true, the government wouldn’t be desperately attempting to rob us even more, with the encouragement of the charities.

Most of us realise that just because we are having a hard time, we can’t junk our promises to people who have it worse.

No, most of us look at the overseas aid budget and ask the question ‘What am I handing you my taxes for, so you can give them to ‘the poor of India’ while their own government funds a space programme?’.

And they’re right.

6 comments for “Overseas Aid – Yes, It Is An Unaffordable Luxury…

  1. Sue
    May 27, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Yup. Makes my blood boil too. The whole meaning of the word “charidy” has become yet another opportunity to legally thieve from the hardworking taxpayer whilst achieving a global Godlike status for our “leaders”.

    I can quite honestly say I will never give to charity again unless I directly hand it to those people it is meant to help.

  2. May 27, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Overseas aid is merely enabling the problem. I have no problem with richer countries offering practical expertise and assistance – and, importantly, free trade to help developing countries. The aid programme we have is not only unsustainable as we cannot afford it, but enables a culture of dependency and the kleptocratic regimes that run some of these countries.

    It needs to stop, and stop now.

  3. May 27, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    There’s also the point that it’s usually doing the recipients more harm than good if people like Dambisa Moyo are to be believed, though I doubt Barbara Allen would think that a lowly economist who, also being Zambian, has a better understanding of why aid hasn’t done her country many favours can have very much to teach someone as exalted as a journo from one of the lefty Sundays.

    Is the sarcasm coming across properly?

    • May 28, 2011 at 6:28 am

      Well, if they won’t listen to Dambisa Moyo, maybe they’ll listen to the spokesman of that darling of the chattering classes, good ol’ Nelson himself?

  4. Geo
    May 28, 2011 at 8:22 am

    India is a complex situation, everybody refers to their space program but a little research will show many, many more ££ billions being poured into their military. Nuclear submarines, new Naval bases, aircraft carriers, stealth frigates, fighter jets and on and on. More than enough money, wasted in my opinion, to resolve the starving poor issue. However the underclass in India, the untouchables, will never see a penny from their ruling classes and if the ruling classes attitudes never change the aid we supply will never end.

    How much good our aid actually achieves is a whole other question.

  5. C H Ingoldby
    May 28, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    It’s a basic fact that most Aid is counterproductive. It entrenches corrupt regimes, creates dependency and establishes a permanent class of special interest ‘activists’, who need poverty for their careers.

    But on the flip side, giving billions of pounds of taxpayers money in Aid helps make Guardian readers feel good about themselves.

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