As a nation of individuals we respond magnificently to pleas for assistance when disasters occur around the world. However we believe that it is not for the UK to try to influence other nation’s ideology or business decisions by donating aid. Not least because it would appear that it doesn’t work. The practice of giving aid for consideration in business is distasteful to say the least, and when it does not have the desired outcome, as in the case of India not awarding the UK the contract to build Typhoon aircrafts for them; it is humiliating for us as a nation to be publicly disrespected, a position in which we increasingly find ourselves. Business arrangements should be for businesses to negotiate with assistance from politicians, not funded by aid donations financed by the British taxpayer. Tory MP Peter Bone, when speaking in 2012 on the topic of aid for India and their subsequent awarding of said aircraft contract to the French urged ministers to abandon pursuing a target to hand out 0.7% of the UK’s entire national income in aid. He said that the 0.7% target is a vanity project and is being pursued for no good reason at all. He did not understand the Government’s position on this and he didn’t believe the British public did either. In 2014 George Osbourne announced in the budget that the UK spend on aid will now be 0.7% making the UK the first G8 country to meet the decades old promise! The total spend by the Department for International Development, one of a number of agencies who are given aid budgets, will be in excess of £50bn for the period from 2010 to 2014. In an article in the Daily Telegraph on 16/02/14, political correspondent Matthew Holehouse wrote about a leaked letter written by Justine Greening MP to all Cabinet Ministers regarding misspent funds, the content of which made for interesting reading. He goes on to give a breakdown on where some of the money goes in relation to four of a number of agencies.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change – a programme to reduce gas emissions from cattle rearing in Colombia – cost £15m over 4 years. Renewable energy, and low carbon transport projects in Chile, India, Nigeria and Turkey – cost £73m.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Britain contributes to Europe Aid, the EU’s aid programme. Projects include equipping border guards in Belarus, a dictatorship, and funding a waterpark in Morocco – cost £1bn a year.
The Department for International Development – Providing funding for Yegna, a girl band dubbed the Ethiopian Spice Girls, to empower teenage girls through song – cost £3.8m a year.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport – A programme following the London 2012 Olympics to make PE lessons more meaningful and exciting in 20 countries including Malaysia, South Africa, Turkey and Brazil – cost over £8.35bn over 4 years. This project at a time where some of our own children, in various parts of the UK, would settle for having some meaningless and unexciting PE lessons as opposed to none, as too many schools in the UK are losing playing fields and swimming pools to profit, despite the huge increase in pupils of all ages, and where the term PE has fast become a derogatory term in a lot of our Education Departments. In a small part of Hertfordshire alone, where many of our members and their families reside, they have seen 2 large swimming pools and quite a large acreage of school playing fields sold off in the last ten years. The rationale for the decline in facilities for healthy pursuits is nearly always lack of funds. This at a time when obesity and the knock on effect of this on the physical and mental health of our children and young people is ever increasing. We need to stop throwing our money away on these projects which are at best misguided and at worst a criminal waste of our taxes. If the bulk of the money stayed in the UK to be spent on assisting Health, Education and other social spending we would be all the stronger for it.