“Money may be tight, but ‘smart aid’ to developing countries can really work”
By Larry Elliott in The Guardian
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Britain hosted the G8 summit at Gleneagles in July 2005. Life was sweet when the leaders of the world’s most powerful western economies pledged themselves to debt relief and aid to help poor countries.
In 2013 Britain will, once again, chair the G8, but the mood will be quite different at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland this summer. The talk will be of fiscal cliffs, the euro’s struggle for survival, high energy prices and the struggle to ensure financial solvency. One thing is certain: there will be no repeat of the commitment to double aid within five years.
Back in 2005, the pressure on Tony Blair came only from the Make Poverty History coalition. David Cameron has a more difficult task; in addition to the lobbying by MPH2, he is coming under fire from aid sceptics, challenging the logic of a government that is cutting public spending at home while increasing public spending abroad.
The thrust of the argument from the anti-aid lobby is as follows: aid does not work because it traps countries in a culture of dependency. Lobbying by powerful and arrogant charities has led to an increase in the aid budget so big that DfID does not know what to do with its riches. Aid should be pared back to genuine humanitarian relief.
The anti-aid lobby is livid that the government are making good on the promise made by Labour to raise the aid budget to 0.7% of national income in 2013. Given the precarious state of the UK’s public finances, the assumption was that they would renege on the pledge. They deserve credit for not doing so.
Here’s why. Firstly, the anti-aid brigade mounts what is largely a straw man argument. Nobody involved in development would ever say that aid alone is the answer to tackling poverty. It is part of the solution, along with the right macroeconomic policies, private sector investment, boosting trade and, in Africa, encouraging regional integration.
Secondly, both sides of the aid debate agree on the need to tackle waste and corruption. Conservative ministers have been acutely aware of the need to maintain public support for a rising aid budget during a period of austerity, which was why Andrew Mitchell undertook reviews of bilateral and multilateral spending and insisted on better value for money.
Greening has insisted that a minister must sign off on any project costing more than £5m rather than the previous limit of £40m. She has announced the end of UK aid to India; stopped money for Rwanda amid evidence that it has been used to finance rebel forces in the DRC; and has suspended all direct aid to Uganda after reports of misuse. This would appear to be the zero-tolerance approach the aid sceptics are urging.
Thirdly, there is plenty of evidence to show aid is working. In 2002, there were 300,000 people receiving HIV/Aids medicine; today the number exceeds 8 million. As a result of international aid, the number of Africans with access to a bed net has increased from 3% to 50% in a decade. Spending on vaccines, bed nets and nutrition has meant child mortality in sub-Saharan countries has dropped by 41%. Education is the key to competing in the global economy, and over the past decade 51 million more children are in primary school because of resources provided by debt relief and aid.
DfID funds a scheme called Making it Happen, where skilled health workers from Britain share their expertise with doctors, nurses and midwives in Sierra Leone. Far from creating a dependency culture, this is an example of “smart aid” that will help Sierra Leone help itself.
All these seem worthy uses of the 70p in every £100 of national income that the government allocates to help countries far less fortunate than our own.
Read the full article here
SummaryLarry Elliiott in The Guardian on why, far from creating dependency, strategic assistance from the west can help developing countries to help themselves