Barbara Ellen on the growing opposition to overseas aid:
It has been unnerving, in recent days, to observe the scene being set by those who oppose overseas aid and who feel sneeringly confident of ultimate victory.
Unnerving because you know it resonates with the public?
Only Gordon Brown, in his bid for the IMF job, stood up for the world’s poor, practically begging countries to keep their G8 education pledges.
Well, actually, he stood up for Gordon Brown’s chances of winning the IMF job. He cares no more for ‘the poor’ than I do…
Meanwhile, all around there are sulky murmurings against the very notion of helping Johnny Foreigner, when we have our own deficit to deal with. “We cannot afford to help other nations when we are struggling ourselves.”
By George, I think she’s got it!
Oh. Wait. Maybe not:
Finances and affording it aside, where the ethics of aid are concerned, could we seriously afford not to?
Yes. Quite easily.
Much has been made of the fact that certain countries don’t deserve aid anymore (“Russia, China, India? They’re having a larf!”), but many of these are to be dropped from the register; those remaining still have huge bands of desperate poverty. Then there is the “it goes straight to bandits or dictators” argument. Yup, the world is complicated, but if aid agencies already have an ongoing struggle keeping a grip on chaotic infrastructures, surely robbing them of key finance is the cruellest and dumbest thing to do? Then there is the argument that these agreements were reached years ago, in “better times”. All the more reason, then, not to renege: aid agencies depend on this financial support and have doubtless built years of strategies around it; they will be thrown into total chaos if it’s removed.
Well, that’s a lot of reasons not to stop, but strangely, I don’t find any of them very plausible.
And nor, I suspect, will anyone else who isn’t heavily invested in the charity/aid business, or the progressive lifestyle.
It is terrifying to think that the anti-aid mindset might take root, that people might end up being manipulated by self-interested politicians, anxious to divert attention away from cuts.
No, I think you’ll find that it’s the public that are driving this, in the teeth of reluctant politicians.
Debate is always healthy, but this doesn’t feel like a debate, more like the coalition-right slyly beginning the process of closing a door that was previously open.
No, once again, it’s not the politicians wanting this door closed at all; rather, they are straining to keep it open, the better to strut the world’s stage being generous with other people’s money…
What seems to have been overlooked is that most Britons aren’t heartless or, indeed, stupid. Post-Live Aid, it has become inbuilt in the national psyche that aid is not an unaffordable luxury, rather an economic necessity, if we don’t want half the globe to collapse around us.
If that were true, the government wouldn’t be desperately attempting to rob us even more, with the encouragement of the charities.
Most of us realise that just because we are having a hard time, we can’t junk our promises to people who have it worse.
No, most of us look at the overseas aid budget and ask the question ‘What am I handing you my taxes for, so you can give them to ‘the poor of India’ while their own government funds a space programme?’.
And they’re right.