Intent on honouring a cross-party pledge of spending an arbitrary 0.7 per cent of our national income on international aid, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that government funding for the Department for International Development (DfID) will grow by nearly 50 per cent to £11.5bn by 2014/15. DfID will soon be awash with taxpayers’ money at a time when UK national debt is soaring above £1 trillion!
It’s bad enough that this implies extraordinary mismanagement of the nation’s finances, but to throw money into the grasping hands of corrupt regimes, who will almost certainly misuse it, defies belief and flies in the face of common sense.
Many of the governments benefiting from our largesse could easily finance social programmes to eradicate hunger and tackle poverty should they choose to do so. But they prefer to spend their money on military equipment and lavish palaces. Less than two per cent of Pakistan’s national budget, for example, is spent on education. In Zimbabwe, capital expenditure on schools is funded entirely from foreign donations, despite the fact that the president, Robert Mugabe, and the prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, spend millions of dollars a year on foreign travel and state residences. Pakistan is so reliant on foreign aid that only a small minority of the population actually pays any tax. Even the president, Asif Ali Zardari, neglected to file a tax return in 2011.
Giving aid to these countries is really nothing more than vestigial colonialism. It leaves them sucking at the teat of aid packages when they should be fending for themselves and striving to fulfil their potential. Our handouts only serve to perpetuate corruption. We cannot afford to indulge our self-righteous beneficence anyway. There are times when giving aid is the right thing to do, but it should only ever be in response to specific short term emergencies.
Mother Teresa encouraged us all to “give, but give until it hurts.” Well, the time has come – it’s starting to hurt.