The Great Debate UK
By Laurance Copeland
After one year, the progress report on the Coalition reads “Moving in the right direction, but with a lot more to do”.
Nonetheless, it is a prisoner of its commitment at the outset to leave two departmental budgets untouched: the NHS and international aid. It is not simply the amounts of money involved (colossal in the case of the NHS, relatively small for aid). It is also the signal it sends that there is such a status as sacrosanct, which immediately begs the question from policemen, firemen, teachers, the legal system, the armed forces: why isn’t our budget sacrosanct too?
This week we learned that Dr Liam Fox is opposed to fixing in law Britain’s aid budget at 0.7 % of GDP. I can understand his disquiet, but I would feel far more sympathy if he favoured instead enshrining in law a more sensible level for international aid – say, 0.0%, or thereabouts. It is not really a question of what we can afford – personally, I would be quite happy to see 0.7% of GDP set aside in a fund to support international disaster relief (think of the 2005 Asian tsunami or the Haiti earthquake) – it is simply that ongoing international aid is at best a waste, at worst it actually damages the poor people it is supposed to help.
The justification for aid is, presumably, that it is intended to alleviate the suffering of those at the bottom of the income distribution in countries which are themselves too poor to be able to help. However, when you actually look at the list of recipients of aid from the UK, you find that it includes a number of countries which ought to be capable of providing a tolerable standard of living for their own population without outside assistance e.g. Angola, with its vast natural resources (oil, gas, diamonds etc) and, unbelievably, Russia, which is even better endowed both with raw materials and with billionaires.
At 1:30pm British time on Wednesday, October 21, Reuters is hosting an exclusive Web 2.0 interview with Darling and we want you to send us your questions to put to the top man from the Treasury.
- Luke Baker is a political and general news correspondent at Reuters. -
The mountains and deserts of southern Afghanistan are far removed from the elegant charms of Trieste in northern Italy, but there will be a link between the two this weekend.
Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations meet in the Italian city on the Adriatic on Thursday for three days of talks, with the state of play in Afghanistan, as well as developments in Iran and the Middle East, front and centre of their agenda.