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.