Overseas aid

The Uk is a generous country. The government remains wedded to its pledge to spend 0.7% of our GNI on aid. Recently Mr Cameron has suggested that more of our aid spending should be used to stabilise countries in strife and assist law enforcement in troubled countries, so that more UK armed forces spending can count as overseas aid spending.

There are international rules on what does and does not count as aid spending. You can spend on teaching peacekeepers or police and that counts as aid, but spending directly on peacekeeping or policing yourself once invited to do so by the host country may not count as aid. Where our forces are helping a civilian population by assisting medically, or in other ways that usually qualifies for aid, it would make sense for that to be included in the totals.

More importantly, the government should look at the large transfers and payments made from this country to developing countries. Surely much of that money flowing to developing countries is doing exactly what aid budgets are doing – boosting incomes, offering financial assistance, providing cash for investment. Whilst UK charitable donations do not count as aid for these purposes, the tax relief granted to charities sending donations can count towards the total as this is state aid. Where the UK pays state benefits to people who then remit some of this money to families in developing countries, this is not counted as aid though it looks very like it.

France and Germany have typically included more of the loans advanced from their countries to developing countries as part of their totals of recognised aid. We need to recognise more of what we are already doing, at a time when public budgets are too stretched. To qualify as aid the state needs to be involved and there has to be a concessionary element to the loan.

Meanwhile the government is right to cut back overseas aid out of taxpayers pockets by removing aid to countries like China and India, as they are now doing. They are right to cut the budget back from the original plans owing to the lack of growth in the economy. It needs less spending to hit the 0.7% target if growth is reduced. How much aid would you spend?

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104 Comments

  1. nina andreeva
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    Yes and you could also mention the transfers out from the earnings of those that have been let into the UK as economic migrants. In essence foreign aid is a blunt instrument that seldom actually achieves what it sets out to do, especially when it is administered by do gooding and naive civil servants. The most farcical example being Labour’s plans in the 1950’s to grow groundnuts in what is now Tanzania http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tanganyika_groundnut_scheme.

    Another example on a personal note is that I have a good friend who picked up an AusAid scholarship to study medicine in Australia. This shows why if I was an Australian taxpayer I would be pulling my hair out. First of all why a “tiger economy” like Malaysia needs more doctors beats me and him, the scholarship also made no demands that he be bound to practice medicine back in Malaysia or anywhere else in the Third World. So you can guess now where he is working ….. New Zealand, which is just presumably what the Australian govt intended in the first place.

    • cosmic
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      The Tanganyika Groundnut Scheme is a monumental folly which should never have started – it was an unsuitable climate for groundnuts anyway – and has been too easily forgotten.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        Well they rarely care what they do with the money it not theirs after all.

        It is a case of, if the daft government will give us money for that absurd scheme – lets push that one.

        • cosmic
          Posted March 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

          A lot of these schemes seem to be grand gestures rather than things being done to produce a result. The result is a secondary consideration.

          There’s no natural discipline – if it isn’t producing the intended result, scrap it. There isn’t the backstop discipline of going bust, which has eventually overtaken many companies which have embarked on over ambitious and ill-judged projects.

          Once these things are in motion, the government finds it easier to keep them going than to scrap them even if they’ve been inherited.

          There are scores of examples which have been a phenomenal waste of money and produced little or nothing, very expensively, defence projects, IT projects etc.

  2. matthu
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Personally, I find it too easy to manipulate any of these numbers to ake out aid budget seriously. Especially when they hqave been linked in the past to trying to win arms contracts from comparatively rich overseas countries.

    And the EU is no better. They have included a statement of intent to spend fully 20% of the new EU budget on climate activity.

    How much of that is new spending? How much of that is double counted as aid spending?
    It is all political posturing to win votes from green environmentalists.

    • Timaction
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Foreign aid is not the business of UK Governments and should be limited to emergency/crisis money. The people should be able to decide what charities they wish to give to not meddling officials in Government. £300 million to India who can afford their own aircraft carriers and space programme is an obscene amount of money. £650 million to build schools in Pakistan! Ridiculous.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Trade is far more effective than aid. I have little confidence that most of the aid is wisely spent. After all little else the government spend money on in the UK is. It must be even harder in some of these aid recipients to avoid corruption and incompetence. Assuming of course anyone is actually trying too.

    Off topic, one wonders just how many in the state sector are employed at public expense to fiddle/massage statistics or cover up things to mislead the public, who pay their wages. This to meet targets and for political reasons.

    The NHS, immigration, economic statistics, crime, I find if difficult to believe anything much but perhaps I am too cynical. If they government just spent less of misleading the electorate they could save a fortune. Much of the BBC could go too and the rest could be moves to the middle ground away from the quack green, every big state, ever more EU agenda they currently run every day. But alas we have Cameron and Patten who clearly like “BBC think”.

    • StevenL
      Posted March 6, 2013 at 1:03 am | Permalink

      one wonders just how many in the state sector are employed at public expense to fiddle/massage statistics or cover up things to mislead the public

      The larger departments have many individuals dedicated to the activites you describe, theycall them ‘economists’ and ‘press officers’ whereas in smaller parts of the state they are simply called ‘managers’.

  4. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Actually, I wouldn’t spend a halfpenny of government money on aid because I think aid is something personal which Churches and generous people ought to be doing anyway. Red Nose Day, for instance, or Cafod?

    That is naive, I admit. Politicians in various countries need a little bit of “persuasion” now and then, I am sure. You must have a modest slush fund.

    The danger is that you get whole governments propped up with our money. Then they need pay no attention to their electorate and they do exactly what they want. And what they want is quite often, as is the way with us humans, entirely selfish. We all know that the enormous sums of our money have virtually no effect on sub Saharan Africa where the soaring birth rate, the very great political dangers and the chaotic infrastructure prevent any serious development.

    PS: We are spending a lot more on repaying the skyrocketing debt (£55 billion a year is it?) than we are on the military (£37billion).

    • waramess
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Not naive at all but the quid pro quo must be to drop tariffs on the import of fiished goods from lesser developed countries as this in itself hinders their development whilst ostensibly but erroneously protecting our own employment.

      On the whole however I agree, not so much as a brass farthing.

  5. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood: please do not publish this:

    According to the BBC website, there were some 14,000 postal votes ordered and about 10,000 received on the Tuesday before the election (it was on the Thursday).

    Mr Redwood: please do not publish this:
    The entire Lib Dem vote was about 14,000. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2013/mar/01/eastleigh-byelection-results-2013).

    I have canvassed with the Lib Dems and know exactly how to elicit postal votes. It is surprisingly easy too.

    Can you do anything about this?

    Reply There is nothing wrong with legally offered postal votes, filled in by the voter.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Comment on Reply–Your reply though correct as written doesn’t say much because (in true Politician style) it sidesteps the problem – the only problem best I know – that postal votes are much more vulnerable to fraud and if fraud is possible it will most certainly take place.

    • APL
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      JR: “There is nothing wrong with legally offered postal votes, filled in by the voter.”

      And that is just the thing about postal votes that cannot be guaranteed.

      The whole postal vote system as implemented by the Blair regime is a corrupt scandal. It is shameful that this administration hasn’t done a thing about it. Oh whatdyaknow!! The ‘coalition’ is run in Parliament by the Lib-Dem whip.

      • Winston Smith
        Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        This Govt will do nothing about the pressing issues because it is only superficially different from the last Labour Govt. Cameron has retained Labour advisers and his speech writers are Labour supporters. We have LibLabCon One Government. Stop kidding yourself anything will change. At present, only UKIP are offering an alternative outside this political/media elite carve-up.

        • Jerry
          Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

          @Winston Smith: If you think this government is no different to the last they you are either blind, deaf or chose not to use either of those two human senses! But of course, talking about such things, UKIP is no different to what it was 19 years ago, still loosing elections, still no MP at Westminster, even the party activist rants are the same old UKIP… Change the record!

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        Well, now it is up on the net, let me reply to your reply.
        OK you are completely right in theory. Of course people should have, in theory, the right to vote.
        The problem is this. You can so easily target the vulnerable. For example, a quick visit (in my own case) to the Old People’s Home brought in easily ten votes. Nobody else bothered, you see. Then there were a couple of tower blocks too. We had a list of voters to go to and one bang on one door = one postal vote. The other parties didn’t do this – or have a list.
        Finally – and we had no immigrant communities in our area – there was a (word left out) swindle in another area where one community deliberately sat down and filled in a lot of voting slips with the same signature. I believe there was a court case about this.
        (words left out ed)
        Practice and theory are in no way compatible sometimes.

        • Jerry
          Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

          Mike Stallard: You appear to be complaining about the process known as “The Hustings”, what should candidates do, just put their election statement up on the net (and the RM election mail shot) and leave it at that, if the other parties can’t be bothered to put the foot-work in that is hardly the fault of anyone else

          Getting people to apply for a postal vote is not filling in their ballot for them, of course the voter might think better of the party whose atavist bothered to explain and help them obtain the vote they are entitled to but that really is no different to thinking better of a party because they promise to stop immigration or what ever their concerns are.

          Words such as Storm and Tea-cup spring to mind!

      • Jerry
        Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        Before attacking the use of postal votes simply because you don’t like who the holder voted for do please remember that a fare proportion of postal votes are used by Tory voters and quite possible an above average number simple because the wealthy tend to be both those who vote Tory and those who travel abroad for extended periods, either on business or (retirement) holidays.

        @APL: Iit is more difficult now to get postal votes than it used to be, not less so.

        @Leslie Singleton: I have never had to prove my ID at a polling station.

  6. me
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    0.7% of any budget surplus would be fair enough.

    • Nick
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      So you can make your own choice. You send 0.7% of your income. Why do you need to force other people with different needs and circumstances to get into debt to fund charity?

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Me–Good idea

  7. Old Albion
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Nothing, not a penny, zero. In routine ‘aid’
    In the case of a natural disaster such as earthquake or eruption, then yes of course we should send help in all it’s forms.
    But the days of handing out our taxes to despots, criminals and countries producing wealth should be put firmly behind us, immediately.

  8. Andyvan
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    The correct amount to spend on 0overseas id nothing. None. It distorts markets, enables corruption, never gets where it should and is not a sensible or moral way to spend money that has been stolen from UK taxpayers.
    Charity should be left to non government groups and tax should be reduced accordingly.

  9. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    We need to think about this in context of other aid and help coming and going , say from th EU.There are diplomatic reasons why we should continue to pay aid to China. Divorce from those becoming more powerful than ourselves is a dangerous game. I would love to see aid in Afghanistan being spent in a way that helps the sufferers and not the despots. How can this be done without the consent of the Afghans themselves?

    I am acutely aware of the plush family houses and businesses, particularly private medical concerns, being developed out of UK state benefits being sent overseas; some can even afford servants. Ethically this makes a mockery of the rule of providing subsistence to the UK citizens who really need this aid ,however It is difficult to do other than enforce a universal rule. A dual nationality is a privilege which we extend with or without EU consent.To stand from the point of the dual nationalists is to realise they are working legally and have arranged themselves into family syndicates where they and their religion can utilise legal funds in the way they wish.

  10. Nick
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    State pensions debts went up by 736 bn pounds a year (Not a year) between 2005 and 2010.

    Ho hum, have to give that money away.

    Whose going to send the aid back when you’ve screwed over 30% of the population?

    No pension. No welfare. No savings. The government has taken it and spent it.

    • Bob
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      @Nick

      If the coalition hadn’t increased the aid budget by £4 billion a year, we could avoided the need for tuition fees.

      Remember that at election time.

  11. Iain Moore
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Like others I wouldn’t spend a penny on anything other than emergency Aid, for the simple reason that Aid as a policy just doesn’t work, for we have been trying the policy for 50 years, the West has poured in some £1 trillion into it , yet the very countries that needed Aid 50 years ago, are the same countries that need Aid now, the only difference is that they now need even more of it.

    All Aid is is international welfare, and like all welfare policies it creates dependency and corruption. Here though is the contradiction in Government thinking, for while our politicians have come to realise that welfare isn’t a solution to anything, abroad they think it the solution everything.

    By any measure Aid is a disastrous policy failure, the prospects of Africa, economically and democratically, have been blighted by Aid, the fact is Aid is a selfish indulgence of the politicians and bleeding hearts of the West, and in the future when this madness has been put into perspective, people will just as embarrassed about Aid as they were over colonialism, possibly more so as they come to realise that Aid has done more damage than colonialism.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Aid was beneficial for most East Asian and Middle eastern countries as they’ve improved their standard of living, though it doesn’t seem to have helped most of sub-Saharan Africa which keeps getting worse.

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Iain

      Agree with you, National Aid should be zero.

      Continuing aid eventually kills self help, and breeds the dependence culture.

      JR has now highlighted even more confusion over exactly what Aid is considered to be !

      Only in the UK could giving away money be so complicated.

      The Great British Public are by and large very generous, let them decide who is a deserving case with their own money or time.

  12. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    The overseas aid budget should never have been ring-fenced and then increased. What is the sense in borrowing money to give it away whilst pretending to eliminate a deficit? No one in government can prove that all the money is well spent and that much of it is not going to the wrong people. On Channel 4 News last night showed families living in absolute squalor in Afghanistan refugee camps a spokesman said ‘I beg you don’t give any more money it just gets into the wrong hands’.
    http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thomsons-view/afghanistans-appalling-refugee-camps/4282

    • forthurst
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      “families living in absolute squalor in Afghanistan refugee camps”

      Our foreign policy is a disgrace. We are hooked up to a policy dictated by neocons (words left out-ed) and we are following their every dictate. All we are doing is (making things worse -ed) whilst losing the lives and health of Englishmen whilst leaving a trail of death and destruction and refugee camps in countries where we as Englishmen have no real enemies, but only those that have been invented for us under the ‘War on Terror’ brand. We need our own foreign policy, not one launched on the back of a (foreign-ed) terror event; furthermore we need to recognise that those who claim to be our friends and allies are not necessarily teling the truth.

  13. oldtimer
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    The UK state is effectively bankrupt. It is absurd for Cameron and Clegg to be putting on a “We`re a couple of swells” song and dance routine about the 0.7% totem on which they are fixated. That said I support disaster relief where the government contribution matches that freely volunteered by the public. Nothing more. As others have already pointed out, aid distorts economies. Market forces, as the entrepreneurial Chinese now demonstrate in Africa, are far more effective in generating economic growth and a reduction in poverty.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      The Chinese are more interested in stripping all the minerals from Africa than helping the Africans. So once the minerals are gone the Chinese will no longer help the Africans.

      • oldtimer
        Posted March 6, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        You misunderstand the Chinese. Obviously they want minerals and the minerals will last a long, long time. They also want alternative food sources – which Africa can provide in abundance. They also want markets – which a growing Africa provides more than any other continent on earth. They also want commercial opportunities for the entrepreneurial Chinese – they are there for the long haul. In just about every way the Chinese have replaced the European empire builders of the 19th C but are doing it on the basis of two way trade

  14. Peter Stroud
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I think the matter is too complex to solicit a simple answer. However, I would cut to zero any aid to underdeveloped countries aimed at encouraging them towards a low carbon economy. It is now clear that the CAGW message is based on pathetically poor science. And is really purely political aimed at global wealth distribution.

  15. Matthew
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Seems Mr Cameron, in following Mr Blair’s policy of increasing foreign aid, is looking for ways to backtrack and save money.

    I’m not well enough informed to put a figure on it, but think we should cut back aid spend in total and direct it more to natural disaster relief.

  16. Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I believe all UK aid should be in the form of British produced goods or services. This would help provide employment in this country as well as providing material aid to a poorer country to our mutual benefit. We should never give cash, nor should we give those goods which can easily be sold by local officials. Ideally, aid should only be given to assist in “one-time” events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, epidemics, etc, and not as routine help to prop up a country’s budget, which encourages a cult of dependency.
    Meanwhile, as it is said that our government is giving about £500 per family in aid, I have decided to stop contributing to any charities operating abroad on the basis that the government has taken the money from me and given it on my behalf. As far as I am concerned “Charity begins at home”.

  17. Phil P
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Have to go with most not a penny. Natural disasters offer phsyical help never money EVER. Seriously who would help us???

  18. Robert Taggart
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    The last Liebore government made much about this 0.7% pledge / goal.
    Oneself finds it incredible that Broon did not massage the figures / criteria in order to meet this. Smoke and Mirrors… !

  19. A.Sedgwick
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I stick to my view that this Department should be scrapped with a saving of £xb no doubt and then Government only being directly involved in disaster relief through the FO.

    As more people are being fiscally dragged maybe the tax relief element could be increased to 45% if the above happened. Anyone see the pigs?

  20. Neil Craig
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    “spending directly on peacekeeping or policing yourself once invited to do so by the host country may not count as aid”

    Does that mean that helping our al Quaeda allies to destroy Syria is aid but that funding them if they become the government won’t be?

    I am cynical about “aid” – looking at who gets it it seems to be a way of buting or keeping friends, encouraging purchases from Britain and imposing our own lunacies about “renewable” energy of the natives. I am convinced that if value and not getting it stolen were considerations we would be giving money to India and that not doing so merely represents our national jealousy at them having a space programme and us not. The proper response to such feeling is for us to do better not to discourage them from doing so.

    The best “aid” we could give would be encouraging free trade – eg getting out from under the EU food tariff barrier.

  21. James Strachan
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    It’s worth reading “Dead Aid” by Dambisa Moyo, who is a Zambian with experience at the World Bank.

    She asserts (convincingly) that aid actually drags down the economy of the receiving country.

    • Bob
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      ” aid actually drags down the economy of the receiving country.”

      Presumably on the basis that the more you do for a person, the less they do for themselves.

      Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

  22. cosmic
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I can see no reason why the whole foreign aid budget shouldn’t be scrapped as it’s been proven over decades to be corrupt, wasteful and counter-productive.

    To ring-fence this budget at a time when the economy is in a complete mess and we have huge debts, is madness.

    • Bob
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      @cosmic

      To ring-fence it is one thing, but to increase it by 50% when we’re having to implement tuition fees for uni and closing hospitals is insane.

      We can’t even repair the potholes on our roads.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      cosmic–Agree totally

  23. Jerry
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    “Charity starts at home”…

    • Christopher Ekstrom
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      It used to.

  24. behindthefrogs
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    While it is reasonble that people working in the UK should send money back to their families abroad, they should not be sending benefits abroad. There needs to be a test on all benefits that the people receiving them are not sending money abroad. If families abroad need benefits these should be provided by their local government or via verifiable aid routes.

  25. Seth the pig farmer
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Overseas aid – the most effective way of taking money from poor people and giving it to rich people yet devised.

  26. Peter Davies
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman late last year who has spent his life working for NGOs in Kenya and Uganda. Given the type of work he is involved in he is very close at a practical level as to what happens with aid and how it is often administered.

    What came out of the conversation was that it is common practice to transfer aid on a treasury to treasury basis with no strings attached and the end outcome is that it disappears into that country’s financial black hole thus being spent on govt cronies rather than where it is intended – that’s the reality, our govt borrows money to give to other govts who then do with it as they see fit.

    How many times have we seen diplomatic cars from so called 3rd world countries with wives of dignitaries dripping with gold knowing that many from their home country cant even feed themselves?

    I’m not saying this is what always happens but is often the case.

    I agree with use of aid to train military etc but to save the scenarios above what about administering aid to NGOs on a project to project basis once they have provided a business case for specific work they are doing thus by passing the local govt? I’m sure that would be far more useful to them and the ceiling of the aid budget in the UK should be a ceiling not a must spend all budget – its public money so any non spent money should be returned to the treasury.

    And your last sentence “the government is right to cut back overseas aid out of taxpayers pockets by removing aid to countries like China and India,

    Common – lets get real, these countries do have poverty but they both have massive trade surpluses and the ability to sort their own problems out themselves – the UK is a small country and cannot just keep giving money away in this fashion. I’m sure if you were the o’seas development minister you would have had the wisdom to sort this straight away, what are these people doing?

    • Peter Davies
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Whilst on this Aid topic Daniel Hannan made a very good speech to the EUssr Politburo (parliament) about aid recently (its on You Tube). His point was that if the EU stopped placing big import Tariffs on food producers in developing countries in the first place thus allowing these countries to build solid export markets they would more than likely in many cases not need to bother with aid because jobs and incomes would be created.

      This would of course not be in the interests of many of our subsidized farming friends across the English Channel and would no doubt lead to ports being blockaded and national strikes.

      • Bob
        Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        @Peter Davies

        Euphemistically referred to as the “elephant in the room”.

      • forthurst
        Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        There is also the issue of the CAP which subsidises the production of products here which are easier to produce in the tropics such as sugar (beet) and cooking oil (rape). I suspect we may be growing cotton and tobacco as well. There is the issue that the AGW nutters have created substantial inceases in world food prices, even before the banksters have manipulated commodity markets, by overpaying for the growing and production of ‘sustainable’ energy sources ie inedible vegetation to burn in Drax etc instead of coal.

        We need to start undoing the harmful effects of our EU trade policies and our EU global warming religion before giving money out in compensation for depriving third world farmers of their markets. In conclusion, we need to leave the EU now.

        • Peter Davies
          Posted March 6, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

          the more I hear about the EU and what goes on behind the scenes the more I loath it

      • uanime5
        Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        Why don’t the non-EU countries just build up an export market with other non-EU countries? Wouldn’t it be much easier to export goods to nearby countries rather than the EU which is further away?

        Also given that agriculture mainly provides seasonal jobs (planting and harvesting crops) it won’t provide any of the people in developing countries with full time jobs.

        • Bob
          Posted March 6, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

          @uanime5
          “Wouldn’t it be much easier to export goods to nearby countries rather than the EU which is further away?”

          Which nearby countries should Africa be exporting their sugar to? Brazil perhaps?

          • uanime5
            Posted March 6, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

            Well given that Brazil produces 39% of the world’s sugar they probably have enough. Interestingly in 2009 Brazil, India, and China produce 61.6% of the world’s sugar.

            Perhaps West Africa could export their sugar to North and East Africa, since these regions grow very little sugar.

          • Bob
            Posted March 7, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

            @uanime5
            “Well given that Brazil produces 39% of the world’s sugar they probably have enough.”

            That was exactly my point.

            You said that the Africans should find export markets closer to home, and I was trying to point out (using sarcasm) that the EU is the closest viable market for them.

            The problem in selling to other African countries is that they either don’t have the money to pay, or they can buy cheaper subsidised surpluses from the EU.

            What they need is a level playing field.

  27. Posted March 5, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    The saddest sentence in your post is the first one, in which you confuse the country with the state. The state is a legal entity designed (rather badly) to serve the people who live in the country. To use the word “generosity” to describe the actions of the state in giving away money taken by force from those people is nonsense. If they wanted it done, they could do it themselves. Indeed they do – and would do it more if not robbed so comprehensively by the state. “Overseas aid” by the state has nothing to do with serving the citizens of the donor or donee countries.

    Reply I do not confuse them. The British people are generous, as we see through charitable donations etc, and they vote into office parties that support high levels of overseas aid.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Many charities exist on funds diverted from us taxpayers by the (word left out-ed) State, against our will. There are so many now located in the trendy and very expensive EC1 and WC1 districts in London.

      Reply Charities are designed to raise private money from well intentioned individuals and put it to work for good causes.

    • Bob
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      “… and they vote into office parties that support high levels of overseas aid.”

      N.B. If you do not support “high levels of overseas aid” you should not vote for the Lib/Lab/Con party.

      Please remember this at election time.

    • Bryan
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      ‘… they vote into office parties that support high levels of overseas aid.’

      Mr Redwood, what choice do we have?

  28. Barbara
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Only specific targeted aid should be made, and mostly to feed people and stop starvation, that is a basic human need. I certainly do not agree with giving money directly to some of these governments as it lands up in cars, private houses, or planes, for certain despots use. Even the food is stolen if not properly distributed by aid workers. No aid is increasing dependancy. You could equate this with ideas at home, now we see benefits being cut and the push to incourage work, as benefits for life is said to encourage idleness, if you can cut it here why not abroad with the same thinking. Abroad it letting off governments responsiblities for their own people and arms are bought instead of food for example. As for India, classic case, we give aid they put missiles in the air, but they have massive areas of poverty, which is important their advancing nuclear programme or missle programme or their own poor? We now have poor here, what about them?

  29. Bryan
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Simple – zero!

    Look after our own elderly with dignity in their later years is a much better moral cause.

  30. Nicol Sinclair
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Particularly to those who are so against foreign aid from UK plc.

    I declare my interest. I am currently employed on a DFID project in ——-. Therefore, I am, of course, biased. However, let us remember that foreign aid is delivered because:
    1. UK has made an international commitment to pay 0.7% of GDP in foreign Aid – thanks for pointing this out ‘Me’
    2. Would you wish us to renege upon it? Clearly some would but they are simply not worth listening to.
    2. Foreign aid is disbursed (BY ALL DONORS) for political purposes. You may not agree but that is fact. Thanks for pointing this out Margaret Brandreth-j. There are many reasons for paying this out not only to China (which I do not agree with) but to smaller, fragile nations that have recently come out of a Civil War – like mine.
    3. 0.7% of GDP, in the great scheme of things, is pretty paltry. Currently, it may not buy you a Cornish Pastie…
    4. “It distorts markets, enables corruption, never gets where it should and is not a sensible or moral way to spend money that has been stolen from UK taxpayers.” An inflammatory statement designed to inflame passions by Andyvan (Troll?). It has not been ‘stolen’ from UK taxpayers. It is part of an international agreement signed up to by UK plc. Do you really expect UK to ‘rat’ on international agreements? That is the path to chaos…
    5. Although I am working in the 2nd most corrupt country in the region, I am trying my hardest to turn the tanker around (no – I do not work for an INGO). Small successes there have been but there is still a long way to go. Is this not a worthwhile aim? If not, I am wasting my time – and I can already anticipate all the -ve responses from Mr Redwood’s ‘Red Necks’. Meanwhile, I continue to intervene – slowly & diplomatically – to turn things round.

    Sorry, JR. A bit of a long-winded rant…

    • Winston Smith
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      “they are simply not worth listening to”

      “All animal are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”

      George Orwell. 1945.

      • Edward2
        Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        Yes Winston I agree.
        For Nicol to be “worth listening to” it must follow that others who have different opinions also need to be “worth listening to”
        Who knows we may learn something and may even change our opinions.
        As I have done by listening to this particular post by Nicol on the argument for foreign aid.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      There are several things to be said to this.
      1. ad hominem attacks are not an argument.
      2. Your ideals are outstanding. No problem at all there. Congratulations,too, on spending your life in a country which, let’s face it, must be a personal challenge and actually a source of constant disappointment. I really respect that. (I was a founder member of VSO myself).
      3. BUT be honest, lots gets wasted, doesn’t it. I remember Mr——– using his white landrover as a passion wagon, for instance. I remember the women coming round selling olive oil which was a gift from the USA. International Aid hardly ever scratched where we itched.
      4. What is needed is an end to Kleptocracy, some injection of respect for other people, sort of Christian Love perhaps which is growing very firmly in several non European Countries. Unless there is a real change of mind, we are just pouring money into a vacuum. And that is why I say the Churches ought to be at the fore front of Aid. We raise money regularly for it and we make sure that it goes into changing people’s lives. Governments love to appear Carin’n’sharin: the fact is their motives are not the same.

    • Peter Davies
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      @Nicol

      Not sure what points you are trying to make here, the biggest issue regardless of what people think about Aid is whether it is properly spent – anyone can spend money, whether it is spent properly and on the right thing is another matter – surely the tax payer have a right to know what is being done in their name?

      @me talked about “0.7% of a budget surplus” if you know what that means…….

      Your point on International Aid obligations – can you be more specific? Have govt’ ministers been signing yet more treaties without consulting their electorate – if so what are they?

      You need to accept that free trade arrangements/allowing access to European markets with developing countries will do more than any aid could ever hope to do anywhere plus the fact that govt to govt transfers is ripe and open to fraud and corruption.

      Whatever ‘tanker’ you are trying to turn around I don’t think its going to happen with a few million quid – ever heard the phrase ‘leading the horse to water’?

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Nicol–If 0.7% of GDP is so paltry how come everybody (except me) gets so excited about changes much smaller than this each quarter (triple dip twaddle and all the rest)?

    • Iain Moore
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      A Government in the past making a stupid international commitment doesn’t mean it is for ever. It is ridiculous to think that we should pursue a policy that is failing, just because some ignorant politician who is long gone decided he wanted to grand stand.

      Aid doesn’t work, it creates dependency, it distorts peoples priorities, it is an invitation to corruption, and it beggars the recipients nations democracies. All Aid is is an expensive indulgence to make metropolitan chateratti feel good about themselves in their dinner parties.

  31. Gewyne
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Is it true that the DfID went on a spending spree to get rid of it’s surpluss to prevent any potential cuts due to it not being able to spend it’s budget ?

    Personally, whilst we have people living on the streets/manky bedsits i’d not spend a penny on international aid.

    Money to other countries should come through charitable targeted transparent schemes – where the money trail can be followed and results verified

    • Peter Davies
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      What about Mr Mitchell begging India to accept £300 M which they said they didn’t need? Any truth there?

    • Iain Moore
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t be surprised, at the bottom end of the Aid circus you get the managers loading up their budgets (I have known people buying computers they didn’t need by the crate load to pad out their budgets) and in light of our stupid politicians putting a priority to spend on Dfid to meet a 0.7%spending target, you can bet your house that the quality and outcomes became very second best to need to spend the money at all costs.

  32. Paul
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Remember this money spent on aid belongs to the people of this country. The government can only spend money raised through taxation. Here’s a revolutionary idea – as its the hard earned money of the British people being squandered on aid let them decide and put the issue of foreign aid to a referendum. Let the massively over-taxed people of this country decide whether their money should be squandered by useless politicians on aid or whether they should spend their money how they want.

  33. Nicol Sinclair
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    “…let [the British people] decide and put the issue of foreign aid to a referendum” – Paul.

    Do you realise that it would take a hell of a lot of money to launch and undertake a nation-wide referendum. Unless it were to be coupled with an EU referendum – now, there’s a thought. Good value for money? I don’t think so.

    • Paul
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      How about Mr Cameron gives us a National Referendum Day in 2017 where we settle multiple issues that are long overdue – EU/foreign aid/death penalty/gay marriage/the monarchy, and probably one or two others! Although, it has to be said that David Cameron could promise anything right now and still lose the election.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      Paul is absolutely right.

      The last national referendum, the one on AV, cost £75 million:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20790944

      On a quick calculation just 0.1% GDP is about £1.5 billion, twenty times the cost of a referendum to decide how many 0.1%’s we want to give in aid.

      But it would have to be an unusual kind of referendum, not one with a “yes-no” choice but one in which the elector was offered a range of options – zero, o.05%, 0.1% … up to say 1.00%, and the accepted result would be the median response, ie the level of aid which half of the voters thought was too high and half thought was too low.

  34. A different Simon
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Slightly off topic but I was thinking about transfer payments within the EU the other day .

    Redistributing and lending money to Spain is doing no good . They have 50% youth unemployment but regional corruption stops projects which might create jobs for them .

    Surely it’s time for countries in Europe including our own to look after their own people which will force other countries to look after theirs .

  35. Iain Gill
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Personally if I am heavily in debt, and struggling to earn my way in the world, I cut right back. I prioritise heavily, and I cut back to safety and feeding my own children.
    I stop giving to charity when I am struggling myself. I think the UK state should do likewise and in current circumstances I would be giving hardly any foreign aid at all, less than 5 % of current budget.

    We also need to radically re assess who our friends are in the world, who would really be sending tents and food if the whole of the UK suffered a massive earthquake or similar. Sure New Zealand and Canada would, I can think of a few countries which have had massive “aid” from the UK over the years that even now that they are quite wealthy would never dream of helping the UK out, really these countries should be off our Christmas card list and stop being naïve and giving them even more aid.

    I can point you at some folk sleeping rough in our big cities tonight who need food and shelter and who I would put higher up the priority list!

  36. uanime5
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    So the Government is increasing aid, decreasing the defence budget, and reclassifying things the military used to do as aid. So it appears the Government is decreasing the military while increasing aid but is actually doing neither.

    Also a new generation of nuclear power plants may not be built by 2025 because the energy company wants more subsidises. I trust all the people who objected to wind turbines and solar panels getting subsidises will be similarly outraged.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/9908734/Talks-for-EDF-Energy-to-build-nuclear-plants-could-fail-within-weeks.html

  37. Christopher Ekstrom
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    The “champagne super nova charity express” made its last stop around the time Her Majesty’s Navy was decimated to pay for 20 annual health check-ups, elective surgery, & inefficiency aimed at over-paying staff at NHS.

  38. Jon Burgess
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    How much aid would I spend?

    Personally I’d keep the Government out of it completely and leave it up to the individual entirely.

    Could we have a referendum on that?

  39. Richard1
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    No aid whatsoever should go to a government which is not democratically elected or does not follow open, free market policies. Aid in such countries must be strictly conditional on being distributed directly to recipients by charities and other independent bodies – or best by UK Govt agencies. To route aid through or to undemocratic or socialistic governments will perpetuate bad government in such countries and so impoverish the populations. Let’s also count as much as possible to the 0.7% since its clear this is an area of huge waste, so we need to limit taxpayers’ obligations.

  40. Jon
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    We need to account it in a way that those other countries do. We were generous in comparison before the target. Targets just mean all the money will be spent every year and that is not always effective when there can be one off disasters.

    I understand only 1% of Pakistan’s population pay tax. Its not our job to indirectly fund a nuclear program because that government or society doesn’t believe in collective responsibility and contribution.

    Aid has not helped Africa, its just allowed its leaders off the hook to spend it on other things. Trade is what they need and the EU is the issue there.

    It looks like the 0.7% of GNI will stay so we need to add everything that could be considered aid to be counted within that. That includes that portion of our EU contribution that goes to developing nations in Europe and outside.

    Reply I think rather more Pakistanis than you say pay tax!

    • Jon
      Posted March 6, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      Hello, I had a quick look on internet and a number of sources state that a small percentage pay tax.

      The Economist 8th Dec 2012 said only 780,000 paid income tax last year out of a population of 180 million. I appreciate there may be VAT type taxes but that’s a very small proportion that pays income tax. If that data is wrong and its used frequently then fair enough?

      Reply Just as here poorer people pay lots of taxes.

      • Jon
        Posted March 7, 2013 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        Not convinced on that one, I think the authorities are not on the ball there, may have had something to do with partition and the rejection of all things but I don’t think there is a collective tax paying system that we have here. Like Africa I think to an extent the aid can perpetuate the situation rather than force a change.

      • Jon
        Posted March 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        Okay get what you were saying, mis interpreted first time but all those gov workers, police, armed forced, nuclear workers and its just 780,000 out of 180 million. Still think it lacks a more inclusive tax paying responsibility to its own welfare.

  41. Mark B
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    “How much aid would you spend ?”

    None. We have Charities to do that sort of thing.

    Sounds tough, cold and heartless but I do not think as much money reaches the people as it should. Most I dare say goes to the wealthy and is sent in turn too Switzerland.

    We should remove tariffs on goods from poorer countries and encourage private investment.

  42. Boudicca
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    How much aid would you spend?

    We should not hand over any money to 3rd world countries whatsoever. Money corrupts.

    We should provide expertise and equipment which is kept under our control; specialists; medical teams and competent bureaucrats.

    We should provide emergency relief when there is a real natural emergency – but we should not interfere in other countries’ internal disputes and insurgencies.

    Most of the countries who receive International Welfare wanted their independence. Well with independence comes responsibility for their own economies; their own people and their own welfare.

    The best thing we can do to help them is leave the EU and let them trade with us. If that means the EU implodes then so much the better ….. the CAP will go down with the EU.

  43. Electro-Kevin
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Government organised foreign aid will never sit well while British soldiers – crippled during foreign service – have to rely on aid raised voluntarily from the public.

    In fact every cut in services to our own vulnerable people will be met with “… and look how much they spend on foreign aid.”

    As far as party political standing at home is concerned it is a risky policy.

    There are doubtless wider diplomatic considerations. Aid to successful economies does seem rather futile and patronising.

  44. Rods
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    If a business is making large uncontrolled losses the first thing you do is cut ALL discretionary spending. The same applies to UK PLC. Overseas Aid is discretionary spending and should have been suspended or scrapped. Over the life of this Parliament our debts will be at least £50bn higher as the result of not doing this. This is an extra £1667 debt per working person and £1bn (£33 per working person) per year interest charges at 2%.

    Alternatively, they could have used it to cut taxes as part of a re-balancing of the economy, which is desperately needed to kick-start growth. In 2000 the Government spent £250bn, this year they will spend £744bn and there hasn’t been a corresponding three times rise in GDP!

    Since 1995 when John Major increased public spending to try and win the 1995 election, followed by the Labour years of ever increasing taxes and spending along with lots of employment legislation, some from the EU, business costs have gone up. Since 1995 the velocity of money which to me is a good measure on how dynamic an economy is, has gone down, with it recovering very, very slightly in the last 12 months. The only way we are going to have a dynamic growing economy is by cutting public spending and taxes and supply side reform. After almost 3 years of Conservative Government taxes have gone up, spending has gone up and the furthest they have got with any supply side reforms is talking about it. There is also no growth strategy with the importance put on business growth shown by having an anti-business Business Secretary. Margret Thatcher opened the UK’s door for business again, the last Labour Government closed it and Vince Cable has now made sure it is triple locked! What a surprise we have no growth!

    When we have our next Sterling crisis which may well be before the 2015 election as an increasing (out of control?) deficit and a national debt of over 90% of GDP and still rapidly rising (OECD figures as I consider these a much more reliable and also a like for like European calculation) . At some point in the near future the the markets are going to say enough is enough on missed deficit targets and Gilt interest rates will start rising. The Government will try to fix the Gilt market to fund the deficit with lots of QE and we will have ever rising inflation. We can’t go bust because we have control of our own currency, but we can certainly have hyperinflation and a worthless currency!

    Moody’s have fired the warning shot on this, but was anybody in the Government listening?

    • uanime5
      Posted March 6, 2013 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

      There’s no growth because wages are so low that the average person can only afford to buy the bare essentials. Thus domestic demand is dropping.

  45. Monty
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    John you have asked how much we should be prepared to spend on development aid. I don’t even think that is the right question. Surely we should be asking what do we want to achieve with this expenditure? Because the whole thing just looks like an influence-buying slush fund applying a splatter-pattern of money around the world, with no identifiable beneficial results, and all too often, significant harmful results.
    We should pare this all the way back to zero, then put our best disaster relief resources back into the funding mix, because they do get results. And actually, they tend to be fairly enthusiastically supported by the public anyway.

  46. Martyn Gee
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 1:29 am | Permalink

    I find it interesting that nowhere within this particular topic does anyone mention or refer to the fact that too many of the counties to whom we donate our taxed (or newly printed monies) in overseas aid are, in fact, tribal-dominated – either religiously or fundamentally tribal (word left out-ed) – where any realistic form of democracy does not exist.

    I use ‘tribal’ in the broadest sense but, so far as I can see, that if one belongs to the ruling clan then one can prosper with our overseas aid but if one does not belong to that clan and is living in squalor without running water or sanitation then sorry, but those in receipt of our overseas aid money and in power are less than interested in your predicament.

  47. David Langley
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    You say surely some of that money is helping. I am not sure and it looks like I am with the majority on this post. Surely charity begins at home when we are in dire straights and as many say there are massive outflows of money from this country to the poorest countries anyway. The government should stick to governing us not going on gladhanding schemes with our cash.

  48. David Langley
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Off topic and probably too late to be read, I have just read that ECOFIN was a disaster for the government yesterday. Cameron was outvoted 27-1 looks like he is unaware of the EU dynamic and has no friends. Bye Bye grasping bankers, Singapore there they go!!!

    • Chris S
      Posted March 6, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Why on earth did Blair and Brown ever agree QMV on anything to do with Financial Services ?

      It was obvious that Paris and Frankfurt would use every opportunity to screw the City.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 6, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

      Given that only 3-4 left when there was a tax on bankers bonuses it’s unlikely that many will leave.

      Reply Not so – half the v ery highest earners left, with top income tax down £7bn

  49. Chris S
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I would give aid as the US does mainly : give credits to be spent on UK sourced and manufactured goods and services. Why should we be giving money to countries who then spend it on vehicles , plant and machinery manufactured in the US, Germany or China ?

    Having said that, some of our best contributions have been in helping developing countries to organise their infrastructure and Govt.

    In this case it’s do as we say but not as we do here !

  50. Terry
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    It cannot be right that thousands of elderly people die in the UK each year because they cannot afford to eat AND heat.

    It is therefore mind-boggling that the Coalition sees fit to hand over tax payers money to save lives in far off lands in preference to saving their own people in very difficult, life threatening situations. And there lies the problem.

    Our leaders, be they Lib Lab or Con, are all from wealthy backgrounds and have not a clue what it is like to try and survive of £200 per week. Or less! They cannot empathise with the victims nor their circumstances.

    In the past 30 months we have seen taxes rise on everything, including the essential energy (thanks to the abominable green taxes) required to run a household but wages, pensions and disposable incomes have stood still, at best. In too many cases, they have dropped.

    So, what does the Governing Quad not understand about ‘looking after your own’, first? Or are they more interested in their personal status on the World Stage than worry about the poor electorate of the United Kingdom? They are already treading on thin ice and it’s cracking even more. Wake up Quad and listen to the professionals, your own Tory back benchers.

  51. sm
    Posted March 6, 2013 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps if we delivered country by country reporting, which showed the respective turnovers, costs and taxes (locally paid) etc. We might be in a better position to know which countries actually required direct aid and in what form.

    I am sure all is not as it seems, where does all the money/ productive value go?

  52. Mr. Bubbles
    Posted March 7, 2013 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    The party’s overseas aid policy is probably the main reason I’m no longer voting Conservative. It’s an absolutely crazy policy, especially given the context.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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