Overseas Aid – does it work?

 

             On Monday night I was lobbied strongly to get the government to cut overseas aid. It was not the first time, and doubtless will not be the last that this happens.

              My adviser was someone who helps raise money for charity in the UK, someone with a strong conscience about poverty and lack of freedom around the world. She passed me a copy of a book which she wants the Prime Minister to read.  The book is called “Dead Aid”, written by Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist.

                UK politicians often like endorsements, quotes from well placed people to back up the view the politician wishes to espouse. Miss Moyo has some interesting quotes from the other side of the Aid argument. Her case is that “over the last thirty years , the most aid dependent countries have exhibited growth rates averaging minus 0.2% per annum”

                She prays in aid African leaders with direct experience of aid which fails to deliver:

Rwanda’s President Kagame (2007)  “In the last 50 years you have spent US$400 billionin aid toAfrica. What is there to show for it?…..in other cases they (the donors) have simply associated with the wrong people and money gets lost  and ends up in people’s pockets..”

Senegal’s President Wade (2002)  “I’ve never seen a country develop itself through aid or credit. Countries that have developed…have all believed in free markets. Africa took the wrong road after independence”

President Kagame: “The primary reason (failure of aid) is…much of this aid was spent on creating and sustaining client regimes of one type of another, with minimal regard to development outcomes…”

Miss Moyo charts how aid is misdirected, funds the wrong projects, sustains conspicuous consumption by rich elites, fuels repressive regimes and stimulates conflicts. She quotes liberally from World Bank and other international research to show how much money has been watsed and why the results have in many cases been so disappointing.

When I have discussed all this with Mr Andrew Mitchell, the Development Secretary, he assures me the UK government is remodelling aid to avoid the obvious mistakes of past programmes attacked in this book.

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66 Comments

  1. Stuart Fairney
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    I’ve actually read this book (yes, I know, I need to get out more) and I have to agree. This area of government spending perhaps above all else, simply does not need government involvement of any kind. Those of us who wish to donate can do so to the project we select. Those of us who do not wish to, simply don’t. Everyone gets what they want ~ except some MP’s.

    (And before anyone suggests I am callous, I do support a project set up to care for children orphaned following the Bam earthquake in Southern Iran.)

    • Tim
      Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Mr Redwood, talking to Andrew Mitchel is a waste of your time as the man is an ass. He simply doesn’t get it. Like a number of your leaders I’m afraid that they need to get out of Westminster and talk to the “real” people. The facts are simple but they over complicate issues. Its about “choices” and this and the last Government care more about foreigners than they do the English. Fullstop. Whether its our EU net contribution of £12 billion, foreign aid of £11.5 billion, immigration (650,000 annually) where we are made to pay for health and other services for them for free. Human Rights etc. All very easy to sort out.
      I was in a Hospital with my wife last night, she had waited for an MRI scan for 2 months. In came a man who came from the Asian sub continent with his wife who couldn’t speak any English. It was apparent that he was also foreign. He had to accompany her everywhere as she couldn’t speak English! She was called for her MRI scan. Whilst I don’t personally wish her any harm, why am I and English tax payers paying for the worlds health care????? Could I go to any other Country in the world and get my health care for nothing, like the case of the the lady from Nigeria who travelled here to give birth to her four babies. This is madness of the first order. Why aren’t people checked to see if they should receive our public services? We are considered a laughing stock. No other Nation on earth would tolerate this.

      • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
        Posted July 9, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        I totally agree with your views of fairness regarding foriegn aid and providing free health care to people who have apparently come over here to benefit from our NHS.

        You are right, it appears many foregin visiters are taking advantage of our free health care services. This is wrong – as you say; if we did it we would be put in jail or hounded by interantional debt collectors.

        Unfortunately, things are not that straightforward:
        Some people – who look foreign; have emigrated here and have been through the strict and costly process of obtaining full British Citizenship. They have jobs, and possess skills that help local businesses and larger global businesses based in the UK and contribute to the economy and suffer the same injustices regards to high housing costs and low wages – as the rest of us. They are not the problem.

        Handing over billions of pounds to India – to supposedly help the poorest in India – while the India Government spends money on Weapons and a Space Program rather than help it’s own people, seems insane. The reason why the Government is doing it is because the Weapons Contracts are with UK companies. This is the world of smoke and mirrors and why so many things the Government does do not make sense until one looks at the whole picture.

        • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
          Posted July 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

          Another cost to the UK Tax Payer is IMF contributions.

          The IMF provide the ability for Third World (and now First World Governments) to go into debt as they say that they can always get the IMF to bail them out.

          Once hooked by the IMF, democracy and sovereignty become luxuries of the past. Restrictions enforced by IMF Lending conditions force a Country into exporting it’s real wealth abroad, sucking that Country dry and making it more dependent on further IMF loans. The very act of a Government accepting IMF conditions, is an act of treason. They have sold their fellow countrymen down the river. I think of Greece while I write this.

          The Olympics helped make this situation worse by encouraging unnecessary and short term Government spending for no long term benefit. A fate that awaits the British People. Why not invest that money in local industry to provide long term Jobs, not short term construction projects. Build Factories not Games Pavilions, Help Small Farmers with zero percent loans develop diversified Farms – as they use to do, and use crop rotation – and allow them to sell to local Towns directly without the huge supermarkets. Bad Agricultural practices in bailed out Countries have directly led to mass starvation and War thanks – in part; to the IMF’s Intellectual view of global economies. They are only trying to protect big Banks in New York from paying out on their Credit Default Swaps – sold to protect other lenders from Greece defaulting. Tax payers pickup the tab.

          “While workers in ‘bailed out’ countries are having their wages cut, incoming IMF chief Christine Lagarde will receive a raise and earn more than Obama.”

          The IMF chief is paid more than the President of the United States. That says it all.

          • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
            Posted July 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

            The IMF was almost bankrupt itself a few years ago – now their back in business again thanks to World Debt. Big Time.

            Something that feeds off it’s host in this way has a name in the insect world – parasite.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    I tend to think aid is usually counter productive unless managed very well – and it very rarely is particularly when controlled by the state. The lifting of EU and other restrictions on free trade would do far more.

    I see it is reported that the BBC chief exec is to perhaps have his pay cut from £675,000 by £400,000 leaving him £275,000 . Still about twice the going rate and over 10 times the average pay of the people paying the TV licence tax. Indeed many far better candidates would do it for nothing. And that is without the associated, multi million pound pension. This man alone, over his career might, cost perhaps as much as £1M BBC licence fees alone.

    I realise that managing all these Guardian “thinkers” with their half baked arty, leftie, pro EU, quack greenery and ever bigger state views might not be a pleasant or easy task but £110,000 PA and a maximum pension of say £66,000 is still very generous indeed.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 6, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      I see Cameron has agreed to an inquiry into the new of the world. I Think he will live to regret this as much as his many other daft decisions of agreeing to TV election debate which included Nick Clegg, his mad green agenda, failing to cut expenditure or regulations and reneging on his Cast Iron EU promise.

      One wonder how many (words removed-ed) policemen will be found to have taken “inducements” from all the papers over the years. I suppose it might be a good way to cut numbers on the cheap. It had become rather an expected bonus just as MP’s expenses had.

      Portugal now junk status too today and more figures to show the huge overpayment of the state sector is increasing – circa 40% including pensions for far less work, more days off sick and very little useful services actually provided.

      When will Cameron finally do something useful?

    • uanime5
      Posted July 6, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps there should be a law that the pay ratio between the CEO and their employees can only be 20 times. So if the CEO earned £275,000 the lowest paid worker would get £13,750. This would solve the problem of low pay in the private sector.

      • norman
        Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        Payments to the upper 0.1% would be made via offshore companies, limited companies, share issues, preferential dividends, pension contributions, deferred bonuses / payments, and a million other wheezes corporate accountants would dream up.

        Such a scheme may work in the public sector where the government could control everything via the quango ‘ Office for Fair Annual Lucre’ (OFFAL) but in the private sector it would be a waste of time and taxpayers money – not that that’s any impediment to some of the madcap schemes governments launch.

  3. Duyfken
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    As far as possible, Aid should be of the practical variety to undertake specific projects, with the donor having absolute management and financial control. Just giving or lending money seems naive, pointless, wasteful and possibly counter-productive – just like bailing-out a bankrupt Eurozone country.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 6, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      “Pointless, wasteful and possibly counter-productive – just like bailing-out a bankrupt Eurozone country”

      or creating huge numbers of pointless state sector jobs in northern Labour constituencies.

  4. Javelin
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    It’s an excellent book and she has done a good job bringing the counter argument to the publics attention. Another fact I read elsewhere was there are more NGO aid workers in Africa than administrators at the height of Empire.

    For me the question is one of good Governance. The tribal leader mentality still dominates African politics – and that is one of serfdom and ownership of taxes. Most of the best houses on the coast in the south of France are owned by Aftican leaders.

    Firstly I would NEVER pay money to BRIC countries. This simply smells of bribery from 200 yards. Second when you give a million to a needed project in Africa how can you be sure the leadership is not skimming a million from the budget for a new house.

    It would be nice to see how much is spent in that country delivering a tonne of food aid. Once the NGO has paid for landing, offloading, importing, warehousing, transport, security etc – all by companies owned by the Presidents brother.

  5. Chris
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Your last paragraph explains why I personally never give money to African charity tin-rattlers. It’s wasted. The only routes that I’ve seen to work are those on a minor scale, where church-workers physically take gifts of clothes, shoes and other stuff directly to the people who need them. Giving money is pointless until all the corrupt characters have been either kicked out (words left out)

  6. alan jutson
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    You only have to look at the lifestyle and huge bank accounts of the leaders of those countries who receive aid, to realise that the system is broken.

    How many Trillions have been poured into Africa over the past decades, and the result is.

    Aid is well meaning, but the present system has failed.

    Farms and all types of other businesses taken from their owners who set them up, and then simply given to the locals, have also very nearly all failed.

    One is forced to ask, perhaps independence was right for the leaders of some countries, but perhaps not for the vast majority of their population who appear worse off than when under colonial rule.

    • forthurst
      Posted July 6, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Isn’t giving food aid or anything else to a country which has murdered its British farmers who had previously created a food surplus and prosperity almost entirely through their hard work and skill sending the wrong message?

  7. A.Sedgwick
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I repeat my suggestion – remove government from direct overseas aid. The Exchequer should match private donations to fully authorised and audited charities £ for £. Unfortunately we have not had “big” enough people in government to relinquish this self satisfying and glorifying role.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 6, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

      The main aim of government is alas the enrichment of the powerful and their relatives and friends with tax payers money. So your sensible proposal is a non runner for that reason.

      • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
        Posted July 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        Absolutley agree, although I applaud A.Sedgwick’s proposal.

    • John Page
      Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      In the spirit of the Great Society, overseas aid donations should come from individuals and businesses, with tax relief. Not from government.

      I appreciate that Cameron, Osborne and co enjoy the warm glow of spending other people’s money. What they never argue is why they think it’s better spent on overseas aid rather than on potholes.

  8. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    You and many of your readers were no doubt those to whom Cameron was referring yesterday when he said some people were ‘hard-headed about aid and possibly even hard-hearted about aid’. He clearly has a closed mind to any rational argument against wasting more and more £billions in overseas aid with money we are having to borrow. Every day we hear that we can’t afford this or that in this country and yet endless amounts are available for overseas aid and bailouts; meanwhile the debt continues to accumulate at a frightening rate along with the additional interest payments. This government is no better than its predecessor.

    • forthurst
      Posted July 6, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Cameron is just a softie; how else would he believe we were obliged to rain ‘democracy’ on independent nations from 10,000ft?

  9. AndyC71
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    DFID should be abolished. By all means maintain an ad hoc disaster relief fund, and by all means make it generous where appropriate. But to have a government department explicitly devoted to spending ever greater billions of British taxpayers’ money on overseas autocrats produces no benefit for this country, as we do not tie the aid as most other countries do. And it is hard to resist pointing out that while we are dishing all this cash out, Britain appears to unable to afford to pay for adequate care of its own elderly.

    Nor, as your post points out, has it done any measurable good for the developing world. Aid spending – as with any form of welfare, in Africa or in Britain – merely encourages dependency and corruption. Screwing over Africa to salve our liberal consciences is not a moral course of action. Maybe someone should arrange for David Cameron to be sent a copy of Hayek’s Road To Serfdom.

  10. ferdinand
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Mitchell’s response to your question: ‘Well he would wouldn’t he’

  11. alexmews
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    somewhat off topic. But in sherard cowper-cole’s recent book on his time in Afghanistan he described a self-sustaining conference circuit of NGOs, political leaders, government advisors and so on who maintained an Aghan security & aid industry.

    Like a U2 tour – the main players & entourage went from capitol to capitol drafting generally empty & ineffectual memos as the show must go on. This is also likely true on aid, on climate change and so on. I have no doubt that many of these folks are well-meaning; many are also likely vain and feel the need to be seen to be doing something wihtout anyone questioning why. It is now a respectable, white collar, highly paid and generally income tax exempt (in the case of IMF and others) industry of their own. As a PPE grad myself; many of my colleagues (most now PhD) are part of this industry. where did i go wrong!

  12. William
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I have spent some time in Uganda recently and have visited Rwanda. In conversation with my local (British educated) friends I remarked on the huge number of LandCruisers in Kampala, all white but belonging to a myriad of NGOs and the UN. They said they knew it was extraordinary and that they had no idea what most of them did, but it was impossible to turn down the assistance of these NGOs without looking very ungrateful.
    In my experience there, meeting some of these aid workers in the excellent pubs and bars in Kampala, it seemed to me that most of them were spending a lot of time writing bids for future funding for themselves in order to remain there.
    Call me cynical if you like, but lots of aid is wasted in supporting the NGO infrastructure and in duplication of effort.
    I have no real idea who ought to reform the system of aid; the UN is corrupt and the recipient Government cannot demand aid is channellled through say one super NGO or worse the Government itself.
    My only idea is for DfID to be made responsible for say a super project in each country that will affect all; for example in transport, health, education, power generation or agriculture. DiFD would be responsible in country for everything including project management and construction. This however would be done by the private sector with local help as much as possible to increase local skills. There might have to be some extra funding to ensure some duplication of work and transference of those skills.
    USAid seems to do this and it seems to work. I would also cancel all state support to NGOs if any is given. I have no idea why this government wants to add more money to the aid budget. I t would be more acceptable to see the current budget properly applied and continuously audited to private sector standards.

  13. Derek Duncan
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Where aid is given the ruler of the country may well use it for good purposes, but he is thereby relieved of the responsibility to use his people’s money for those good purposes and can spend it elsewhere instead … houses in the South of France, for instance, as Javelin mentions above. Or things to oppress his people with, etc.

  14. oldtimer
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    The remodelling of aid you refer to in your last paragraph apparently includes payment by results. An item on BBC Breakfast this am illustrated an example of a school in Ethiopia that will be paid an amount per pupil depending on their exam results. Well we all know what that will lead to! To be fair to the reporter he pointed out this himself.

    I think a case can be made for providing aid that is relief from natural disasters and dealing with health epidemics offered in kind rather than in cash. Otherwise the evidence is clear that aid does not work. Compare and contrast Africa with SE Asia post WW2.

  15. English Pensioner
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    If we give aid, it should be in the form of goods or services which cannot readily be resold by corrupt officials to get money. Wherever possible, goods should be made in this country, thus supporting our own industries at the same time. Luxury goods of any sort should be banned, items such a vehicles should be limited to small family cars or working vehicles such as pick-ups & trucks. Major items like aircraft, recently purchased by one African Dictator for personal use, shouldn’t even be considered and neither should arms or other military equipment.
    Services are preferable; new roads would help poor counties (and are very difficult to steal!) and the work should be carried out by UK contractors who would employ local labour as necessary. But Never, Never, Never, should we give money to any country or non-UK organisation.
    Personally, my wife and I have decided that as the government is giving an average of £500 per family in foreign aid from taxation, which as pensioners we can ill afford, this relieves us of any further moral obligation to donate to charities operating abroad. Our future charitable donations will be limited to charities working in the UK, probably those local charities which are operating on a shoestring using volunteer efforts.

  16. Bill
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    What is that saying? ‘Give a man a fish and he will be hungry tomorrow; teach him to fish and he will never be hungry again’.

    I believe the British left West Africa at about the same time as we left the Malaysian Federation and that per capita income in both places was roughly the same and with roughly the same infrastructure. Asia has shot ahead and Africa has gone backwards. That must tell you something about African political leadership.

    • lifelogic
      Posted July 6, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      Give a man a fish for a few months or years and he will never bother to learn how to fish.

      • norman
        Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        Indeed, in fact he’ll say ‘This one fish isn’t quite as satisfying as it was a few years ago, any chance you could make it two from now on?’

  17. NickM
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    “Mr Andrew Mitchell, the Development Secretary, assures me the UK government is remodelling aid …”. We have heard that before. It’s a bit like the assurances that giving yet more money to the EU will result in desired reforms.

    The deleterious effects of government aid have been well known for years, not least from the work of Lord (P T) Bauer. Effective reforms have never taken place.

    Government defence of the aid budget contained in a letter from my (Tory) MP had all the appearance of a PR puff written by a very junior DfID bureaucrat. It sounds like Mr Cameron is following the same discredited line.

  18. StrongholdBarricades
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Do we usually donate money only to those countries where we can select their best people for roles in our public sector, like Doctors?

    • Yudansha
      Posted July 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Our own best doctors seem to like emigrating to more prosperous and better run countries than our own. I don’t see much aid coming our way.

  19. Richard J
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    “he [Andrew Mitchell] assures me the UK government is remodelling aid to avoid the obvious mistakes of past programmes attacked in this book.”

    Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

    • norman
      Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Wouldn’t be a surprise if a politician told the truth one time (prehaps they do behind closed doors) and said ‘Yes, I realise that most aid is wasteful and inefficient but the juggernaut has too much momentum to be slowed so we’ll continue throwing good money after bad, disseminate dodgy statistics, brazenly lie and obfuscate when presented with facts’.

      You could apply the above sentence to welfare, NHS, education, any government department, in fact.

      • alan jutson
        Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        Norman

        I tend to agree.

        The too difficult to stop, so pretend it does not happen syndrome.

  20. Bernard Otway
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Cameron just like those before him are like the old Maharajahs in India,once a year having themselves weighed in precious stones and throwing the stones at their subjects,to keep them quiet and salve their consciences ,while also Glorifying themselves.
    All you need to do with Africa is give them Trade opportunities and show them how to trade,
    that is partly what China has done except that it has recolonised the continent,and far more ruthlessly that the former colonial powers.I know I lived in South Africa from 1980 till 2008
    and have been everywhere and seen everything,Miss Moyo hits the nail on the head.
    I will give ONE example of Trade which does NOT happen ,I have a friend who farms citrus in the eastern cape near Port Elizabeth,he has a 45000 hectare farm,at this very moment [I checked by phoning him] I can buy oranges from him at ONE PENCE [YES
    ONE PENCE] per kilo in bulk,does he and others like him export to us NO,why? a punitive duty from the EU to protect EU citrus farmers that is why.If we trade without this idiocy
    of duty he and others like him would plant more and employ more people,these employees by the way are completely looked after by him ie they live on the farm,get paid and receive free produce from the farm AND he educates their children.IF we import from there we could buy oranges in his season may till august for probably about 75p per kilo in our shops even with a reasonable duty,as they say in the classics a WIN WIN scenario.

  21. Bernard Otway
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Further to William’s post above,that is exactly what is happening,the aid industry is just that
    an industry, it exists a self serving entity and employs thousands in cosseted splendour,who
    would not have the same positions in their own country.Most I met, especially in their first
    years on the job, were totally ignorant of the country they were in,and also did not try to do the unusual.He is quite right about the cafe/bar society in Kampala,also there are the clubs
    for the FOREIGNERS served by the locals ,not dissimilar to the same clubs during colonial times,where the colonial civil servants lived like kings,I know my father was a police commissioner until retiring in 1955,we had servants ,drivers ,my father had a batman,we
    went to boarding school in the UK and holidayed in the country of posting.The only difference now is this is done by the self servers in govt employ or by the NGO’s,every time scrapping aid is mentioned and calls for that to happen get louder and louder from many many more of the public,these people must sweat for their very lives,What would they do back in the UK? A REAL JOB

  22. Derek Buxton
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    There are lots of books Cameron should read and the one mentioned is apt, one problem…. he stopped reading after “Janet and John”. Big words make his head ache!

    • norman
      Posted July 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      That’s a bit unfair – the story is that he holds Tony Blair’s book as the be all and end of all of how to govern.

  23. Alison Granger
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Aid is a two edged sword. On one side it makes the donors feel morally superior and on the other it distorts local markets, pricing out local business and supporting despotic and corrupt regimes. President Wade is right, the way to prosperity is through free markets and low taxation just as it is here. The problem is people have been brainwashed into believing that the state and it’s handouts are the answer when they are the real problem.

  24. stred
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    It is not only African crooks who mis- appropriate aid money. The Commonwealth Development Corporation has seen former civil servants privatise the system and award themselves huge pay rises and bonuses based on targets designed to be met.

    Why does HMG not pass a law to declare such public money grabbing as an unfair contract, designed by the recipients from a position of monopoly. Then the BBC chief moneygrabber, CDC chiefs and Network Rail- Lord of his Island could be forces to reimburse the taxpayer.

  25. Iain
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    “Mr Andrew Mitchell, the Development Secretary, he assures me the UK government is remodelling aid to avoid the obvious mistakes of past programmes ”

    I hope you didn’t fall for that ?

    The very problem with Aid is Aid, it’s welfare and like any welfare policies it creates dependency and corruption, and like all top down dispensing of tax money it fails. In addition Aid damages democracy for it unpicks the accountability people have with their politicians, with Tax the biggest public motivator in a democracy, by us dolling out billions in Aid we have blunted the anger people should have at their political classes squandering their taxes on luxuries for themselves. Finally the very act of Cameron and Mitchell writing our Aid budget in law has created the very conditions for waste , for if they don’t spend the budget they will probably get sued, so the impetus will be to throw money at any old projects to meet the legal financial commitments. Sometime ago I met an Aid boss who was buying up computer terminals as if it was going out of fashion, the reason he had an end year spending budget to meet, this will be Mitchell trying to spend his Aid budget. For a Conservative Government to have made it law to spend British tax payers money shows how un-Conservative this Government is.

    And no Aid dosn’t work, after 50 years of trying the policy, and the West pouring in some $1.5 trillion there is NO evidence it has achieved anything, in fact looking at the countries that have been in receipt of Aid many have gone in retreat. At what point do the political classes decide Aid is a waste of time and money? Another 50 years? another 1.5 trillion spent on it.

  26. GJ Wyatt
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    The pernicious effect of foreign aid on development was pointed out already some forty years ago by the great development economist Peter Bauer who defined foreign aid as “a transfer of resources from the taxpayer of a donor country to the government of a recipient country”. But his was almost a lone voice, readily poo-pooed by the bien-pensant establishment. For example, “Bauer’s 1972 book was savaged by the surly (now Sir) Nicholas Stern*, who wrote, ‘Dissent on Development is not a valuable contribution to the study of development’ ” (quoted by Andrei Schleifer in the Cato Journal,
    http://www.cato.org/pubs/journal/cj29n3/cj29n3-1.pdf ).

    Schleifer’s essay is well worth reading in addition to Bauer’s own publications. I hope this literature has been marked, learnt and inwardly digested by Mr Mitchell and his Department.
    But somehow I doubt it.

    * since elevated to the Lords as Baron Stern of Brentford!

  27. lifelogic
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I see Cameron has agreed to an inquiry into the new of the world. I Think he will live to regret this as much as his many other daft decisions of agreeing to TV election debate which included Nick Clegg, his mad green agenda, failing to cut expenditure or regulations and reneging on his Cast Iron EU promise.

    One wonder how many thousands of policemen will be found to have taken “inducements” from all the papers over the years. I suppose it might be a good way to cut numbers on the cheap. It had become rather an expected bonus just as MP’s expenses had.

    Portugal now junk status too today and more figures to show the huge overpayment of the state sector is increasing – circa 40% including pensions for far less work, more days off sick and very little useful services actually provided.

    When will Cameron do something?

  28. pipesmoker
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Those that have a genuine concern to help the less fortunate may want to consider sponsoring a child through World Vision. The regular donations help a child and also the village where they live in becoming self sufficient and through regular contact you get feedback from the child and it is very rewarding.

    Just £25 a month to really make a difference to some poor unfortunates life that’s all it takes.

  29. Scottspeig
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    The biggest issue I have with Aid, is that I don’t see it as your (MPs) job to sort out a foreign country. You are elected to serve the UK only (surely?)

    In this case, unless there is a clear benefit in minimising an enemy, I don’t see any reason for the UK government to give our money away.

    However, I believe that as individuals we should help and so the government should encourage people to give (something like gift aid, but paid to the donator).

    I personally want a cold-hearted logical small govt. I’m not convinced I’ll ever get one though.

  30. Stephen Gash
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes foreign aid works, soetimes it doesn’t.

    One thing that was never questioned, to my knowledge, was the Scottish parliament giving tens of millions in aid to Malawi, via the Scotland Malawi Partnership, just before it was mooted that Scotland’s then First Minister might become UK Charge d Affaires to Malawi.

    The post was not filled by the person concerned, in the end. I don’t know if the Devolution Act provided the Scottish government with a remit or mandate to provide overseas aid either directly or indirectly, by funding a go-between organisation, but this particular means of foreign aid worked for Scotland. Such a mechanism does not appear to be in place for England. There is no England Malawi Partnership as far as I know, but I would be delighted to be proved wrong.

    Yet another benefit of devolution – for Scotland.

  31. botogol
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    ‘Give a man a fish and he will be hungry tomorrow; teach him to fish and he will never be hungry again’…
    .. and Teach him the theory of angling and he can get a well-job with an NGO, a nice white 4×4 LandCruiser to ride around in, and never needs to get his feet wet catching fish ever again.

  32. Electro-Kevin
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Of course overseas aid does not work. I’d far rather see our money wasted on our own old aged care provision – so would the millions who are going to abandon your party at the next election.

    Off topic again if I may please.

    Bombadier loco works. The best deal for the taxpayer ? Does this factor in the unemployment bill, loss of skills and the loss of allied manufacturing businesses ?

    I’ve heard that the Siemens contract will mean 2000 new jobs in the North East. What ? They’ve got skilled train builders sitting idle up there waiting for this work have they ? Is this true ?

  33. BobE
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Ive been to Africa and I have been explained the primary problem of that continent. There are more than 40 languages and so it is very difficult for a worker to try to get work outside of his particular language area. What is needed is a common language which can be taught to all. This would significantly enhance the opportunities for the ordinay person.

  34. lojolondon
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    For years we have been telling people not to give money away, it is assimilated by the top guy, just look at the list of African dictators who own dozens of mansions in the most expensive cities in Europe.

    Apart from the president of each country, Africans do not want or need aid, they want and need the opportunity to be productive and to trade. The EU import restrictions are responsible for African poverty, far more than any other single cause.

  35. Neil Craig
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    One reason for such mistakes is thata major purpose of aid is to buy friends. We are pouring aid into Afghanistan which everybody knows is largely being stolen. The same applies to “liberated” Kosovo where we fund our former “police” there some of whose whose (action-ED), in our service, have been reported by the Council of Europe.

    Another reason is that we give it to satisfy our own prehudices rather than to benefit them – giving Africans solar power systems when conventional power is so much more reliable; building Ferris wheels for Afghan women; refusing to support use of DDT and GM crops.

    If we are going to give aid it should be transparently to relatively honest and competent states like India. I know this causes ructions because they have their own space programme but I believe it was Maimondes who said that the noblest form of charity is that which helps the recipient stand on his own.

    Even better aid is that which applies equally to all countries. If we quit the EU and traded freely for our food; or if we paid the copyright charges for medicines; or built a global telecommunications net based on geostationary satellites; or simply put the money into X-Prizes for all sorts of new technolofy since new tech helps everybody. I suspect any one of these would do more good than our entire current “aid” programme.

  36. John
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    As many others point out, we are *borrowing* this aid money that we are handing out. The Capital and Interest will clearly take decades to repay, at best. I thought there was a principle that Government could not bind the next Government. Here not only the next Government, but the next Generation are bound. I don’t need to ask where is the mandate for this, the affected voters are not even born yet!

    Worse still, aid demonstrably has the opposite effect to that intended. PLEASE stop this madness. And after lunch, you might stop the climate change nonsense too.

  37. Iain Gill
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    you and many other conservative MP’s get lobbied on ICT visas but I’ve never seen you speak out on that issue in parliament…

  38. Michael Power
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    The problem with international aid has been well known for decades. For a very funny and very sad analysis you should read Robert Klitgard’s 1991 book “Tropical Gangsters: One Man’s Experience with Development and Decadence in Deepest Africa”, which I am glad to see is still in print.

    BTW the Tropical gangsters are not the African politicians!

  39. uanime5
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    The first question that needs to be answered is ‘Can aid ever help?’ As the Marshal plan showed after WW2 aid can be an effective way to rebuilt economies that have been destroyed. Many South American, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and North African countries have also improved themselves due to foreign aid.

    The next question that needs to be answered is ‘Why hasn’t foreign aid helped sub-Saharan Africa?’ As Dambisa Moyo points out much of the aid is stolen by corrupt rulers who continue to get aid because their country remains poor. So as long as African countries have inept or corrupt leadership they will remain poor whether they receive aid or not.

    The final question is ‘How can we fix this?’ If we say that we’ll only give emergency aid to sub-Saharan Africa then this encourages sub-Saharan African dictators to ensure they have consecutive famines to ensure a steady flow of aid. If we don’t give any aid even in emergencies then millions will die and there will be a major influx of African refugees. The mircoloans recommended by Dambisa Moyo is good idea as a corrupt Government is unlikely to be able to collect small amounts of money from some of its citizens. But it’s unclear whether businesses will be able to flourish if there’s no support from sub-Saharan African leaders for growth.

    In conclusion each country that receives aid should be monitored and if the aid is not being used appropriately then the aid should be reduced until the country improves or it stops receiving aid.

  40. Andrew Smith
    Posted July 6, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    I expect if any of the openly socialist ministers of the 1960s and 1970s were in office today they would say, like”Mr Andrew Mitchell, the Development Secretary, “the UK government is remodelling aid to avoid the obvious mistakes of past programmes”.

    The fact is civil servants and politicians are useless or worse at allocating resources and running sweet shops.

    Open markets, assist and insist on property rights, fair courts and public safety; job done. Prosperity follows.

    Any other solution is worse than a waste of our money.

  41. REPay
    Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    I believe it would be useful to people like me who have to fund our own retirements to know the precise timing of the announcement of cash injections to African regimes. We can then make timely purchases of shares in luxury German car makers, small arms and private jet manufacturers where the money often ends up.

  42. Caterpillar
    Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    As with anything one tries to do, it needs to be on the edge of one’s achievability to have a chance of success, don’t under or over-reach.

  43. Robert K
    Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Overseas aid touches similar buttons to that of care for the elderly. Properly given, these are acts of charity – of love freely given, as I suggested in an earlier post. This does not sit comfortably with the notion of taxation, which by definition is compulsory and coercive. My preference would be to scrap the overseas aid budget entirely and leave it to the conscience of the individual to support whichever charities he or she believes is doing the best job in the sphere of overseas aid. A market solution, if you like. Given that this is likely to be politically unacceptable, can I suggest, seriously, a compromise? Allow 1% of PAYE contributions (which roughly equates to the current aid budget) to be allocated by the taxpayer to the aid agencies that they consider to be doing the best job. The department of overseas aid could be scaled back so that its only task would be to ensure a list of recipient charities that are genuinely involved in aid work. People could decide to support the big names – Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières, Cafod and so on – or smaller charities working on specific projects. My previous church, for example, gives amazing support to a school in Zambia and a water project in Ethiopia. If this could be shown to work, the principal could be applied to other areas of charitable giving, including care for the elderly.

  44. Al Gunn
    Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    There’s an insightful review of the book here: http://www.zambian-economist.com/2009/03/dead-aid-by-dambisa-moyo-review.html

    Dead Aid is about 3 years old and the arguments within it are older still. I’m immensely sympathetic to the author and the argument. However, the more I learn about DFID under Andrew Mitchell, the more confident I am that he understands the UK’s options here better than anyone else.

    Aid can be effective, but largely has not been. There is no inherent problem with spending development money on countries that need to develop. It’s just hard to do in countries with political cultures very different to the donor country, and in the context of the Cold War (growth figures quoted in the book take in this period, when aid was being lavished on the likes of Mobutu and Amin, because they were not Communist), post-independence, and of course the apparently low competence of most African governments during the period in question.

    Dead Aid identifies and rallies against the serious problems with aid. However, one of the solutions she missed was spending aid money wisely. DFID has an increasing number of examples of having done this: http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Media-Room/Case-Studies/

  45. Steve Cox
    Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink
  46. adam
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Moyo has been doing the rounds. Her book has been well publicised by mass media.
    I always thought it an absurdity of modern society that it takes a PHD from Oxford to work out that trade is better than aid, something that was obvious to everyone, 150 years ago.

    John Perkins wrote a book called “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, which is popular in the subculture i move in. He describes how aid actually goes to western corporations to build infrastructure projects via loans to national governments and doesnt benefit the poor at all, or only in an indirect way. I dont agree with his solutions, but i believe he is telling the truth.

  47. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted July 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Does Foreign Work?

    Depends on what you mean by “Work” ?

    Foreign Aid used as a sweetener to sling shot tax payers money out to a country then back again into an Arms manufacturers Bank Account, then it probalby “Works”.

    Helping the poorest people in a Country like India. Perhaps a few people benefit. Just enough to be able to say that foreign aid helped people last year.
    But how much of that foreign aid actually got to help the people we thought it was intended to help ? Probably does not “Work”, in the way we think.

  • 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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