International Aid is a very emotive subject and most of us have an opinion on it.
Should we, shouldn’t we … Well, the answer will always be a personal one. However, let’s look at what happens.
The Agreed Target:
In 1970, The 0.7% ODA (Official Development Assistance)/GNI(Gross National Income) target was first agreed and has been repeatedly re-endorsed at the highest level at international aid and development conferences (see e.g. here)
- in 2005, the 15 countries that were members of the European Union by 2004 agreed to reach the target by 2015
- the 0.7% target served as a reference for 2005 political commitments to increase ODA from the EU, the G8 Gleneagles Summit and the UN World Summit
I am not an advocate of people of one country interfering too much with other countries’ policies. However, I do think it’s a bit rich when one of the richest people in the world (Bill Gates, 3rd) tries to dictate to the UK to give more Foreign Aid when we give nearly 500% the amount of the USA (by % of GNI):
“The Microsoft founder urged the UK to keep spending at least 0.7% of national income on foreign aid” (see BBC News, 20th April 2017)
How do we give Aid:
I have an inbuilt hate for waste and corruption, especially at the cost to those in need. So, we should be careful how we give aid. Three simple conditions might be:
- To give ‘aid’ by paying for goods or services that the needy need.
- To try and avoid the monies being used in bribery and corruption. (Yes, I know I’m an idealist).
- To give aid where a percentage of the total is spent back with British suppliers (not always practicable).
Both of these conditions are used by some countries (Germany, USA & Japan). Also:
- To ensure that the project is viable.
This sound silly – but – The UK government spent £285 million building an airport on the island of Saint Helena that planes can’t use, as this report shows:
“About £285 million was spent on a project to design, build, and operate an airport on the island of St Helena for ten years. But due to the extreme winds on the island commercial flights have been unable to run as planned.”
Now one might say that is a drop in the ocean – but many a mickle makes a muckle.
To whom should we give Aid:
There is again much debate on this subject.
It’s true we give money to a particular country that is supposed to have more millionaires than any other country in the world, a space project, a nuclear industry and appalling poverty.
Should we be giving aid to countries with a bad human rights record – if so, can we be sure it’s being applied appropriately?
And my favourite – we give aid to a country that claims still to be at war with us!
Another question: How much Foreign Aid is given to ease British exports?
The Amounts, in Context:
The 2017 budget spending on Foreign Aid was £7.7Bn or 1.1% of the government’s spending.
This is a little bit of 5% of the Health Care bill (£144.3Bn), And nearly as much as the government budget for the Police and Law courts (£8.1Bn) – or half as much as it costs to run Central Government. (£15.1Bn), according to Government data (here).
So, what we’re talking about in the general scheme of things, is a significant amount of money.
I do believe it is fair to ask:
- Why increase our aid spending by nearly 50%, from 0.7% to 1.1?
- Are we ensuring that the money we are giving is going to those that need it?
- Are we sure that the money is being spent efficiently, on value for money projects?
- Are we giving it to appropriate countries?
- Are we giving ‘Aid’ as aid or to ease British exports?
- Is it only fair and right as a Christian country we help others, irrespective of the cost to ourselves?
Similarly – how much of the public budget could be saved by more appropriate purchasing?
The eagled-eyed amongst you will have noticed that the UK Public Spending of £7.7Bn is rather less than the £12Bn that we know has been spent.
Unfortunately this is probably a mixture of ‘budgets’ with actual spend.
Do research the facts and figures from different sources and currencies.
What I’ve been trying to highlight here, rather than just a collection of figures – are the principles of ‘Foreign Aid’