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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

International Aid

Today's News in Britain features the last round in a long-running debate about the relative merits of 'defence' spending and the allocation of money for assistance to other countries for 'development'. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, is again reiterating his commitment [and that of his government] to give at least 0.7% of the reported national income in donations to developing countries.

There is a growing groundswell of opposition to this spending. Although 0.7% is a small amount, there is a great deal of evidence that some of the money over the years has been stolen by kleptocratic rulers, a lot has been wasted, and some attracts criticism by being awarded to India that has established a space programme [which many people regard as evidence of affluence].

Under the present coalition government major components of Britain's military might have been abandoned. No government since that of Charles II [who ruled from 1660 to 1685] has so far reduced the country's capability to defend itself or to make the sort of intervention against anarchy that restored stability and hope in Sierra Leone just a few years ago. The 'illegal' war in Iraq that was waged by George W Bush and Tony Blair, and the counter-historical 'intervention' that is still costing lives in Afghanistan, have alienated a very large proportion of the home population from government foreign policy; while generating in the population a huge empathy with the armed forces that are placed under extreme strain exacerbated by inadequate resources.

There is an increasing lobby that argues that having the military capability to intervene beneficially in destructive situations around the world is a more valuable source of assistance to the causes of democracy and to global economic stability than are cash handouts that can so easily dribble away in corruption and waste. There is a strong suspicion that the dominant Conservative component of the coalition adheres to the aid budget as part of the publicity that has been devised to try to show that their party is no longer the 'nasty party'. Cameron asserts that unless major problems of conflict and mass migration are addressed by an outward flow of aid they will "come home to visit us". The Prime Minister would only need to take a short bus ride from Downing Street to see that uncontrolled immigration, extra-legal employment and poverty are rampant already in London; to an extent that could not be 'cured' by the reallocation of the whole of the overseas aid budget to these legal and social problems. Out-of-touch governments have allowed these massive socio-economic problems to emerge; and the present government shows no signs of awareness of them; so, obviously, they have no way of addressing them properly.

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