Overseas aid spending – unrealistic and as mad as a Mad March Hare

THE Independent Commission on Aid Impact recently published a blistering report on the UK Government’s aid to developing countries. The Government’s programmes have unrealistic targets and are handed out to a few favoured contractors insufficiently assessed on their performance.

Now, Tory leaders became obsessed by not being regarded as the ‘nasty party’ after a 2002 speech by Theresa May, and so, in government, insist on allocating 0.7 per cent of GDP (£12 billion or €17 billion annually) to aid.

Wouldn’t it be better, though, for the country to be run by people who want to get stuff done, not whether they’re seen as nice or not? People who can decide where to put new airports, who can get the results of investigations into past offences published before all the offenders have passed away.

Implementing these aid programmes, civil servants of the Department for International Development, like the public sector in general, additionally suffer from the curse of ‘March Madness’. They have to spend their budget by the end of March otherwise arguably they could get by with less and it’d be reduced the following year.

Meaningless projects will take place throughout March. Council offices will suddenly need new furniture, holes in the road mended – and aid money spirited away overseas.

We also need to be specific about what aid spending is for, but this issue applies to all Government spending. There’s the ongoing debate on defence spending, but no one’s made the effort to define exactly what the UK’s requirements/needs are (so we end up, for example, with obsolescent aircraft carriers with no planes). As a result, 2 per cent of GDP’s spent annually on defence and 0.7 per cent on aid. Maybe too much, maybe too little. Who knows?

The Government spends £1 billion (€1.4 billion) every month on partly unaccountable aid ‘projects’ rating success in terms of how much it’s managed to spend, not what it’s achieved, while simultaneously cutting away at care home, defence and road repair budgets.

The Gates Foundation spends about 30 per cent as much and achieves about 10 times more. I know where I’d put my money.

Incidentally, you may recall my article last week called ‘Cliffgate’ (about Sir Cliff Richard). I still haven’t heard any other journalist dubbing this ‘Cliffgate’ – maybe this column can lay stake to that claim. You read it here first!

Nora Johnson’s thrillers ‘Landscape of Lies,’ ‘Retribution,’ ‘Soul Stealer,’ ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.com) available from Amazon and iBookstore. Profits to Cudeca.

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