Philip Davies is the Member of Parliament for Shipley and Parliamentary Spokesman for Blue Collar Conservatism. For more information about Blue Collar Conservatism you can visit the website. Follow Philip on Twitter.
money we should be spending on our overseas aid budget has become a highly
contentious issue. On one side of the
argument we have the Prime Minister who promised before the election that we
would spend 0.7 per cent of our Gross National Income (GNI) on overseas aid as many
countries had pledged to do – and now, at a time of such little public trust in
politicians, understandable wants to keep the promise he made.
On the other side of the argument lies
virtually every other country in the world and, if the opinion polls are to be
believed, the vast majority of the British public who believe that in such
tough financial times we need to reduce spending on overseas aid as we have had
to do in virtually every other Government department. I am very firmly in the latter camp. Whatever the merits of the overseas aid – and
I will come on to that later – the fact is that we have not got any money to
hand out so liberally around the world.
You would not advise people to borrow money to give to charity and yet
that is precisely what we are doing – borrowing money from some countries to
hand straight across to other countries.
In the UK
we already spend the highest proportion of GNI on the overseas development aid
among G7 countries. Department for International Development (DFID) spent £7.7
billion in bilateral overseas aid in 2011/12, ‘supporting’ 62 countries. That does not include our contribution on
multilateral level to the International Monetary Fund, European Bank for Reconstruction
and Development or UN agencies. Whilst we are continuing to increase our
spending, other countries are now reducing the proportion they spend on
overseas aid – including those who had previously pledged to spend 0.7% of
their GNI – as they recognise the tough financial times they face.
commendable that the Prime Minister wants to keep the promise he made on this
issue. The problem is that it was a foolish promise to make given the financial
situation of the country, and now that the nation’s finances are in a worse
state than the Prime Minister envisaged when he made this promise, most members
of the public expect him to adapt to those changing circumstances and act
Making a pledge on the amount of money you will spend on anything is
foolish. That is a Socialist approach to
issue – a blind belief that simply the spending of money is the solution to a
problem. Surely it is better to focus on
outputs rather than inputs and I would much prefer we concentrated on ensuring
that the money we spent on overseas aid (which should be reduced) is spent
There is a lack of genuine solid evidence to prove that the gigantic
sums we have spent on overseas aid actually get people out of poverty
anyway. Over recent decades we have
spent over £69 billion on aid to Africa and yet the problems are just as
entrenched now as they ever were. At home the Government rightly wants to end
welfare dependency, and yet with overseas aid it entrenches welfare dependency
internationally with many countries simply awaiting their next handout, and
that is without the many millions that are siphoned off by dictators in many of
the countries who are the recipients of our aid. There is much truth in the maxim that
overseas aid is the taking of money from poor people in rich countries and
giving it to rich people in poor countries.
As we have seen with countries such as China and India it is trade which
gets people out of poverty rather than aid which maintains people in poverty.
Until recently we were giving aid to China and we are still giving aid
to India – even though they were reported as saying that they didn’t even want
it. Indeed India is still the second top
receiver of the UK’s overseas aid after Ethiopia, and we gave them £300million
last year. This is despite the fact that
India’s economy had been growing by almost 10 per cent year on year whilst we were in
recession. At the same time India spends $37.4 billion on defence, which is an
increase of 5.3 per cent for 2013/14. It also allocated around $1.3 billion for its
space programme with plans for missions to Mars. We cannot afford to be the
world’s backstop telling every country that they can spend their own money on
anything they want and we will be there to look after the poorest in their
country. Countries like India should
have been told many years ago that if they can afford to spend over $30bn a
year on defence then they can afford to look after the poorest people in their
country with their own money.
If overseas aid was
successful the budget for it would be reducing not increasing. We should have an action plan with each
country which targets support which gradually weans the country off such
dependency. Handing over more and more
money to countries each year is a sign of failure not success. We have plenty of our own poor people to look
after, plenty of other things to pay for and a huge national debt to
repay. They should all have a higher
priority than increasing our budget for overseas aid.