Foreign Aid Fix

Medical

The Liberal Democrat MP, Michael Moore, is to introduce a bill legally binding the country to spend 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on overseas aid in perpetuity. A curious piece of legislation when we have no idea how our GNI will fluctuate over time. The bill raises two immediate questions;

  • What happens if we end up on our ‘beam ends’, how could it be justifiable to give away money that was needed at home?
  • Who decides where the money is spent? Do we, the voters, have a say in the allocation of the money?

Frequently our overseas aid is given to less than transparent governments who spend it on private jets for their tyrannical and insane dictators. Often, too, it is spent in countries that already have a high GNI and are able to spend significant sums on nuclear weapons, defence systems, space exploration etc. yet still claiming they need aid from the UK.

From the article “Just send £700 and you’ll help an aid boss with his bar bill“ by Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times 6th July 2014;

“The real beneficiary of Michael’s enormous generosity on our behalf, however, will not be the Indian astronauts or even the African tyrants. It will be the vast, British-based aid industry that sustains itself on such largesse, with humungous salaries, plush offices, contentious and fatuous advertising campaigns, a multitude of lobbyists swathed in self-righteousness, hugely expensive foreign trips and trebles all round. And the bosses of these organisations will shake their heads sadly when you question this expenditure as being, maybe not what the public thinks it should be paying for and tell you that it’s all sadly, terribly necessary.”

“They need that infrastructure, they need to pay top dollar to get the best people, because that means those impecunious peasants will get the best deal possible. And they need to raise your awareness of the very real issues facing the impoverished billions of the Third World. Although they would rather not raise your awareness when it comes to their own accounts.

We had an example of this last week, with a National Audit Office investigation of something called the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG). These corporate monkeys swallowed some £414m of taxpayers’ money since 2012; the figure is expected to rise to £700m in the near future. The National Audit Office castigated this hitherto mysterious institution for being just a tad lax on its old administrative costs and also for a lack of transparency. The 15 directors of the PIDG’s subsidiary, GuarantCo, spent extortionate sums on air travel and hotel expenses.”

“A chap called Ted Rule, for example, managed to spend close to £3,000 getting himself to Stockholm for a meeting — presumably he was carried on a golden litter by Filipino dwarves. And once in Sweden, he obviously needed some light refreshments — another £700-plus down the Swanee. One Rule for the rich, huh, Ted? Four of the directors had to fly to the balmy and congenial island of Mauritius for an important meeting, again racking up thousands of pounds. Why Mauritius, you ask? Because GuarantCo, along with another PIDG subsidiary, is incorporated there. Why is it incorporated there? Because Mauritius is a corporate tax haven.”

“I wonder if I am alone in finding that arrangement ever so slightly suspect. Or is it the case that when it comes to overseas aid, the normal rules simply don’t apply?

Every objection is assuaged with the practised response that it’s all for the good of the poor old Africans. Yeah, as they say, right. It’s a racket — and good luck with your bill, Mr Moore.”

While the above article comes across as hyper-critical of the management of charitable organisations, the example given isn’t the first I’ve read of what seems like excessive expenditure from people who purport to be in it for the less-advantaged and not for themselves.

My feeling is that charities need to be more transparent with their spending so that people who donate to good causes are clear how their money is spent. I also find it hard to understand why we continue to pay out billions in aid to countries with nuclear weapons programs and space programs – these are luxury projects not necessities. And the fact that taxpayers’ money buys greater opulence for corrupt presidents of poor countries is frankly a disgrace.

UKIP believes that the whole issue of overseas aid needs to be reviewed (not ring-fenced as the coalition have done, and certainly not enshrined in law as the Lib Dems are proposing). There are situations in countries that are clearly desperate, and as a wealthy nation we have a responsibility to help. But at the same time, the government’s first priority must be to act for the good of the citizens of the UK and so when times are tough (as they have been recently) a significant portion of the £12bn pa currently set aside for aid should be allocated to take care of the people of the UK.

 

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