Tackling world poverty and hunger

 

           Whenever I listen to Andrew Mitchell, the Overseas Development Secretary, I am impressed by his passion to tackle world poverty, hunger and disease. He believes in what he is doing, and he is making important changes at the department.

          I welcome his decision to stop giving aid to richer nuclear weapons countries like China and Russia. There was something bizarre about the UK granting aid to China out of money we borrow, only to have to borrow the money on international markets from countries like China with large surpluses. It would be good to enjoy those savings whilst we get the deficit down.

          I am glad he has accepted that a lot of state to state aid finds its way into the wrong hands, and can end up buying better cars or weapons for tyrants if it is not properly policed. He has made clear his zero tolerance of waste and fraud in the budget.

         I also think the west needs to do more to give the hungry and poor of the world a better chance in life. There are two things that to me are more important than the overseas aid budget in bringing this about.

           The first is the west should restrain itself from printing too much money which helps power  commodity speculation. Recent food price increases are in part the result of quantitative easing money finding its way into more risky assets like commodity futures. The hungry of the world are the most damaged by the big increases in the prices of the basics over the last year. The west needs to understand that its inflation can do damage miles away from home as well. Spending more on buying food for immediate relief is no permanent answer if food is getting dearer and dearer.

           The second is the west should do more to allow access to our markets for produce coming from poor countries. The Common Agricultural Policy acts as a block on the poorer countries growing more product to sell for hard currency receipts to help get them out of poverty.Reform of the CAP – and the US equivalent protections – would do more to tackle world poverty than many aid programmes.

          I welcome the governemnt’s strong commitment to poverty and hunger relief. I would like them to take a tougher approach to restrictions on world trade and to permissive inflation, as these are two of the biggest obstacles to progress.

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22 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Spot on as usual – the main thing needed is reform of CAP and more free trade. How can we ever hope yo get get this with the EU structures as they are and Cameron/Clegg in place – that is the real question?

    • Derek Buxton
      Posted May 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      You cannot reform CAP, it needs scrapping but that will not be done either. Too many French and German farmers rely on it.
      I do wish we could give access to foreign producers, it helps them and us. Far better than pouring large amounts of aid into government coffers that never gets to the needy.

  2. lojolondon
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    John, you are exactly right.

    What Africa needs and wants is free access to international markets. What African despots want is handouts (you can forget it, there is no way to police them).

    The EU has brutal trade arrangements that are based on individual countries’ commissioner’s self-interest, which prevent poor countries from free trade and then the EU gets all righteous about ‘giving’ our money to desperate people, instead of enabling them to work for a living.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    OK I am going to be honest – so watch out.
    If you believe that the world is a place where evil is triumphant and that your best hope of survival is to be a really tough, to take every single opening you get and to make sure that it is number one who survives, then if some fool offers you a lot of money, you accept it with a straight face and then spend it one the most important person in the world.
    If you believe that you are part of an organisation which offers eternal life and that God is good and that your duty is first of all to your neighbour, then your behaviour will, surely, be different?
    That is why I am not sure the money being poured into Africa out of my taxes and yours is actually going to do any good at all.
    Me, I give my pennies to the Church.

  4. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Actions speak louder than words. I know that this government is borrowing and giving away more money in international aid. I have no idea how fine words such as “his zero tolerance of waste and fraud” have been given any practical application.

    • norman
      Posted May 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Political platitudes always make me smile. As if previous incumbents have been handed reports saying ‘38% of the aid budget to Botswana is lost in waste and fraud’ and thinking ‘oh, that’s all right then – better hope the papers don’t find out I’ve put my name to this.’

      Which politician would ever say that he or she doesn’t have a zero tolerance on waste and fraud? Or be tough on crime? Or support working families? The list is endless and statements like that are ignored by all but the most naive and gullible.

  5. waramess
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Absolutely right but too many vested interests to accommodate. We will no dobt continue to send aid with a view to keeping the recipients poor and their political masters in power.

    Does David Cameron not see this or is he just willing to please the crowds, whoever and wherever the crowds might be?

  6. A.Sedgwick
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I would like Mr.Mitchell to be made redundant from his post, nothing personal. As I have previously written on several occasions overseas aid needs to be privatised with the taxpayer matching private donations £ for £ to authorised and properly audited charities. The government management of overseas aid is politically driven and suspect , not in a financially corrupt sense, but it is a powerful and “rewarding” job being feted around the world doling out largesse. Again there is a strong elememt of turkeys not voting for Christmas here.

  7. oldtimer
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    The changes you describe are welcome. What I do not understand is why DfID is not expected to do “more for less” like the rest of the government. The planned increase in funding is not justified in the UK`s current economic circumstances. The proposal to enshrine it in legislation is absurd.

  8. English Pensioner
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    The impression that I get is that most overseas aid is not given on the basis of need but is determined by political imperatives, for example the recently announced aid to Pakistan.
    I would like the following rules applied to all aid
    1. No aid in the form of cash, only goods or services.
    2. Goods should be of the sort which can’t be “sold-on”
    3. No luxury goods or cars
    4. Where ever possible, goods should be made in the UK and services provided by UK companies
    These simple rules would at least improve the possibility that the aid actually got to those who need it

    Meanwhile, as the government has decided to make a donation of around £500 pa from my taxes on behalf of my family as foreign aid, I have decided that this satisfies any moral obligation that I might have to do so through charities operating in the same field. Any further charitable donations that I make will be confined to medical research charities, or those working in the UK for the benefit of our citizens. As far as I am concerned “Charity begins at Home”

  9. acorn
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    How about we do away with DFID and merge its money laundering bits into the FCO. William (never knowingly used a full stop in any speech) Hague, has a team of diplomats, who know where all those foreign bandits and shysters are. (And, probably the size of their Swiss bank accounts). Definitely a couple of billion to be saved here.

    While we are at it; shut down DECC. Sub-contract the development of our electric and gas systems to National Grid. It has engineers that know exactly what needs to be done to secure our energy supplies; and, how much to pay for it. The environmental bits of DECC can be handled by DEFRA. Several billions to be saved here.

    Also, as we now have a Localism Act, (subject to ping pong with the Lords); shut down the DFE and give the job and the £58 billion, to the Counties / Unitaries. The additional £9 billion it spends on “social protection” can go with it, or to DWP if appropriate.

  10. electro-kevin
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Thanks Mr Redwood.

    Foreign aid is being used to detoxify the ‘nasty’ Tory party. By increasing it during times of cuts in defence and policing Mr Cameron is taking a huge political gamble.

    Is he really a Tory at all ?

    (Bono has a lot to answer for. Make him pay tax in this country before he dictates policy)

  11. Neil Craig
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    The driving force in Africa’s current rather good growth (about 5% annually) is mobile phones. This has allowed people in remote villages to trade goods and exchanging phone credit has become a form of currnecy not subject to the inflation corrupt governments printing money produce..

    So on to one of my hobbyhorses. If we were to work at supporting space industrialisation it would be possible to produce a large and powerful world mobile phone network which could, on the side, provide free telecommunictaion, phone TV and internet to the remotest places. That would do far more to bring the world’s poor out of poverty than even effective traditional aid and cost only a small fraction as much. Britain could do that alone with only a fraction of the £9.1 billion annually currently given.

  12. REPay
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    I recall that after the G8 in 2005 and the Gordon Brown giveaway to Africa that the sales of BMW and Mercedes went through the roof. The old adage that aid is “money from poor people in rich counties, (filtered through well-paid burocrats) to rich people in poor countries,” we can now add…coming back to rich countries. Policy Exchange held a very revealing conference on Africa at the time of the 2005 G8 in which African after African got up to harangue the British government for wasting its money.

    Of course, the aid money wasn’t given to make Africa better. It was given to make Hampstead feel better.

  13. Stephen Gash
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    With Arab countries buying up food producing land across the planet, and China embarking on an economic rape of Africa, I think the UK’s efforts will be as effectiveas whistling in a hurricane, regardless of the best intentions and abilities.

  14. Tim
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Whilst I agree with your sentiments Mr Redwood, I would go further and get out of the EU and there would then be no CAP and we could save £10 billion net and rising.
    Furthermore I think that foreign aid is a scandal. Borrowing money to give away is madness. As you say we should trade with these nations to improve their wealth. This article sums it up perfectly well:
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100088432/cameron-should-scrap-the-foreign-aid-budget-not-increase-it/

  15. Bazman
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    From a human point of view a lot of this money goes directly to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the world like rural Pakistani/Indian woman and every penny can be accounted for. Got to be quite heartless to just pull the plug and and say nothing to do with Guv. A lesson in global economics is little use to them.

    • Iain
      Posted May 21, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      India and Pakistan to a limited extent are democracies. Their people made their choice at elections. If they wanted a Government to spend less on space programs, less on nuclear weapons, less on aircraft carriers, less on their own Aid programs (yes India has its own foreign Aid programs) then they could have voted for it, and to vote to spend more on their own poor. They didn’t, they made their democratic choice, as such it is the height of arrogance for Western liberal bleeding hearts to decide their electorate are wrong, their democratic choice is wrong, and that people residing in Islington and Notting hill know better. In fact our bleeding hearts are acting treasonously against their democracy.

  16. Iain
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    “I am impressed by his passion to tackle world poverty, hunger and disease. He believes in what he is doing,”

    Are you damming him with praise?

    What you don’t say is if he is right, after all a deluded person can have passion and belief, but that doesn’t make him right, here Mitchell is wrong, and what is really obscene is that the Cameron is going on a £10 billion Aid spending spree per year to give the Conservative party a progressive make over.

    Has a political party ever squandered more tax payers money to give themselves a political make over?

    The fact is Aid as a policy doesn’t work, after 50 years and $2trillion the West has invested in it you might have thought there were some stunning successes of the policy, but there isn’t, all Aid is is international welfare, and like all welfare policies and top down Government spending it doesn’t help the people its supposed to. All it does achieve is greater dependency and greater corruption.

    You say that Mitchell ‘has made clear his zero tolerance of waste and fraud in the budget’ yeah right, he can utter this rubbish, but we all know it ain’t gonna happen. Its bad enough a Government spending money abroad where they have little control over it, and with a fraud industry salivating at how they are going to pick our pockets, but Cameron the idiot has made matters worse by enshrining our Aid spending in Law, which means Mitchell at the end of a financial year, if he hasn’t spent all the money is going to be desperately flashing our cash around, not caring whose pockets it ends up in, just because he is likely to be sued if hasn’t spent our money. That is bloody ridiculous and for a so called Conservative party to be legislating to spend our tax shows what how rotten to the core the Conservative party is under Cameron.

  17. BobE
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Africa’s problem is language. 50 different languages which prevents workers moving because they can’t speak whatever language is used.
    Build schools and teach A chosen African language and recovery will begin.

  18. BobE
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Overseas aid is given so that politicians can visit, stay in style and be looked after. Thats the primary reason. Sad isn’t it. But its the truth.

  19. Johnnydub
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Why are we giving money to Pakistan – they’ve already built 100 nuclear bombs and they’re furiously building another 100..

    And to what end? When their paranoia gets the point where they (want to attack -ed) India?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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