It has to be right that developed countries assist those less fortunate or slower to develop through aid and assistance when they really need it. The methodology of identifying that need has to be questioned, not the actual concept of aid. The recognition of a real and present problem that requires our generosity is paramount when deciding how much and where and when our aid is distributed. The annual writing of cheques on a “this is how we have always done it” basis is now the subject of much speculation.
The measurement used to determine how much aid is given is antiquated at best and out of tune with global thinking at worst. We in Great Britain as part of the G7 spend the most, we are by nature a generous people but questions have to be asked. Our 0.7% of our GNI (Gross National Income) ring-fenced for aid is out of kilter with the rest of the members of the G7 who spend 0.2% of their GNI.
The increase was invoked by one David Cameron and amongst other things it adds weight to the poor legacy he has left us. £12 -13 billion a year on overseas aid represents in real terms a spending each year of £360 for each income tax payer. This amount is set to rise to £16 billion by 2020.
As with immigration UKIP were the first party to begin questioning our overseas aid policy. As with immigration we have been vilified by the great and good of the left calling us all mean little Englanders and other such rubbish. But now, as with immigration, overseas aid is now a mainstream topic which has led to a forensic examination of what is going on.
£4 million pounds of our aid spent in Ethiopia on an all-girl pop group highlights just one of the extremely ridiculous areas of spend. These are thankfully in the minority but bring to the fore the lack of accountability and management of monies once handed over to often corrupt governments.
India is a case in point. Why did we hand over £185 million in 2015 to this country? They are one of the fastest growing economies in the world. They have a space programme, they recently launched a rocket with 103 satellites on board, many from other countries. How much did India earn from this enterprise one wonders. Last year they ordered £4billion of bullet trains to improve their own rail network, are you reading this, customers of southern rail? India also received an estimated £70 million in other funding from us here in Blighty.
Pakistan spends 3.6% of its GNI on defence, we spend 2% yet we still handed over £374 million to them in aid last year. Perhaps the most unbelievable aid in Pakistan is in a town called Peshawar, a major town not far from the border with Afghanistan where families queue with special cards at an ATM and withdraw freely 4,500 Rupees (£35).This is your income tax.
For sure 0.7% of our GNI is a considerable sum. Why not reduce the aid budget to 0.2% in line with our G7 partners and ring fence that money to be spent on real tangible aid. Water pumps, malaria vaccinations, mosquito tents and nets, tents blankets and other such equipment manufactured in this country thereby also creating jobs. This equipment could then be distributed on a needs basis as natural disasters occur across the globe.
The 5% saving from the overseas aid budget would cover annually the deficit in care for the elderly. This would save the local authorities having to rely on a 5% increase through the precept of council tax to plug that hole. People are rightly casting their eyes sideways when presented with this evidence. Another tax whether from the precept or through other direct taxation is a hard sell for the Government. Especially when some careful thought and management could just negate the need for such a pernicious tax.
A re-think is needed. We have to put our elderly and vulnerable in this country first. We can do this by changing the amount of overseas aid to that commensurate with our NATO allies and using the difference to do some real good in this country. This change would not be seen as a reduction in our aid provision but a re-adjustment and would be a far easier sell to the public than a 5% increase on their council tax.