The London Evening Standard Monday 12 August 2013 carries the editorial “Despite the blunders, our aid policy is right”(p14), thereby flouting some 70% of the British public cited over the radio during the Bongobongoland controversy in the past few days. A UKIP member, Godfrey Bloom had played to the gallery of this discontent the week before by saying that all foreign aid was wasted money. We were free to give to charity if we wished, Bloom had said, but it was wrong to tax the public for such aid. This was called a rant by the editorial, Bloom was called ignorant but the editorial lamented that many Tories seemed to agree with his opposition to ring fencing foreign aid at a time of deep cuts to public services.
The editorial says that £.480,000 worth of aid to Somalia was stolen by jihadists back in November 2011 but it has only just been found out this week. Justine Greening has defended the aid, despite the mishap (p6) as it is her job to do, as she is the international development secretary. That jihadist coup was a blunder, we are told, but such things happen.
In truth overseas aid is just a small part of public spending at 1.2% of the whole, the editorial continues. Cutting it would not aid other Whitehall departments very much. But in principle maintaining aid to the poorest countries is right so David Cameron should not shy away from saying so. No reason is given why it is right to tax the poor of the UK to fund the rich of other lands, as the late P.T. Bauer so often put it in his many books. The 70% of the public would seem to be less ignorant that the writer of this editorial, as might be Bloom.
Nicholas Cecil reports that Justine Greening had said that those who opposed aid wanted the UK to shut up shop (6). Why she feels that backward politics is something like a shop is far from clear. Nor does Cecil make it clear. Politics abuse the public but a real shop can serve some customers.
Cecil then tells us that Justine Greening favours aid to Nigeria even though it has its own space programme. Cecil notes that she does not like it that some Tory MPs have attacked the £900 million to Nigeria. None of the aid is for the space programme but for health and education. But anyway, the space programme might aid Nigeria to monitor the weather that may aid them to respond to floods or drought rather than simply aid them what to wear on any day as in the UK. “It is the difference between getting a crop harvest and chronic famine” (p6).
Cecil reports that she feels aid aids the governments to stop terrorism, which is better than dealing with them in the UK or on battlefields. We cannot shut up shop but have no choice but to continue to engage around the world. To do otherwise is simply not an option. Shadow overseas aid secretary Ivan Lewis agrees. It is “morally right” to tax the UK public to give aid, he says.
In an article below that of Nicholas Cecil, written by Justine Greening herself, from which he has clearly cited from at the top of the page, she says that Nigeria has a population of 162.5 million. It is next to South Africa in wealth. She then drifts into incoherence by saying we have a choice between giving aid to deter terrorists or do nothing but face them in the UK or on a foreign battlefield. Some would like us to stop aid but that is simply not an option.
To follow up that incoherence of both choice but also no options, she concludes with the hyperbole that we can either shape the world or watch while others dictate Britain’s fate.
But Bauer has told his readers why foreign aid is usually immoral, aiding the states given the aid to suppress or even kill their public. In any case, the millions of Nigeria or Somalia have no right to the taxpayers of Britain, even if it was not doing harm. Nor has Justine Greening herself. She indeed needs to stop doing harm in the world. If only she would open up a real shop. That might serve the public rather than abusing them with immoral politics.