The bottomless pit that is foreign aid

Written by Editor on .

“After 60 years and $3 trillion of development aid, with one big push following another and wave after wave of theories and jargon, there is depressingly little evidence that official development aid has any significant benign effect on third-world poverty,” writes Jonathon Foreman in a piece  The Spectator on 5 January, 2013. He says the Tories know this –just as Australian politicians do.

We have just spent billions in foreign aid to buy a temporary seat on the Security Council where decisions can only be made if China and Russia decide they like it.

“So what is (foreign aid )it really about?

“One explanation is of course self-interest. To be seen to ‘care’ about the world’s poor is, say some, a way of appealing to swing voters and ‘detoxifying the Tory brand’. This would arguably make the government’s insistence on increasing foreign aid (while cutting almost everything else) one of the most expensive PR exercises in history. But while there is bound to be some truth in the theory, it fails to explain why the Cameroons have stuck to the commitment even though polls show it is not popular. Today, given the UK’s financial travails, almost anyone who is not in the aid industry would forgive and understand a U-turn on foreign aid targets. But the Prime Minister has set his face like flint against any reduction.

“Like so many things in Britain, the new Tory obsession with aid may come down to class and religion….

“… foreign aid has become one of those substitute religions so often adopted by middle-class, educated people who look down on organised religion of all kinds…

“As to class, foreign aid is a comparatively middle- and upper-class business and a middle- and upper-class enthusiasm. It starts with a gap year to exciting places like Nairobi or New Delhi, being driven around in Land Cruisers and lecturing adults on how to run their countries. …You can earn a decent, high-status living in the aid world, without soiling your hands in trade or industry.

“… the aid world (may be likened) to the Victorian church, which offered employment and status to the second sons of the landed gentry…a sort of white-knuckle dating agency for middle-class Westerners…. it’s also a ticket to the lucrative five-star conference circuit.