Aid bosses and tales to make your eyes pop
Published by The Mail on Sunday (12th June, 2016)
It was the campaign that made the country rise up with collective fury against political stupidity – and actually made a difference.
Tomorrow, Parliament will debate if Britain should fritter away £12 billion this year on aid to hit a flawed United Nations target. But this discussion is not through political choice. It is the result of people power.
Our political masters have been forced to reconsider their daft handouts after The Mail on Sunday launched a campaign and e-petition calling for the abandonment of the law that insists Britain dole out 0.7 per cent of national income in foreign aid.
The response from readers was instant and powerful. In less than one day, there were more than the 100,000 signatures needed to force Parliament to consider the request. Since then, numbers have more than doubled.
The voters have spoken: they want a fresh look at this folly. It is crazy economics to focus on spending over results, which simply encourages officials to shovel out our money as fast as possible. No wonder there is such rampant waste and corruption.
Now we must see if Ministers and MPs engage with these issues. Or if they respond with contempt to public concerns, which would only underline fears that these e-petitions are stunts rather than genuine attempts to revive democracy in the digital age.
The omens are not good. Last week I was summoned to Westminster after exposing one of the most egregious results of these spendthrift policies: how fat cat private firms cream off vast sums from this aid giveaway.
I explained to the International Development Select Committee how wealthy companies in the poverty industry were seeing margins, profits and huge salaries boom off the back of the great British giveaway.
As I spoke, representatives of firms under fire sat behind me. One slumped in his seat, eyes popping as I challenged him to reveal total payments he had taken home over the past decade.
Peter Young, director of consultants Adam Smith International (ASI), did not respond to my suggestion. Instead, he denied to MPs our revelations that his firm doled out six-figure dividends to directors. ‘I do not think that is the case,’ he insisted.
When pressed, he admitted they had done so in the past but were now sharing benefits with all employees. This is a firm that, according to its own latest accounts, distributed almost £1 million pay among a small group of directors, boosted by dividends of £440,885 shared among five of them.
Despite doubling staff numbers in two years, average pay at the firm is an astonishing £69,425.
A director from international development company DAI Europe admitted paying no corporation tax in recent years, despite seeing gross profits soar almost sixfold in two years and pay to one boss alone swell to nearly £300,000. She blamed ‘the size of overheads’ for failure to make net profits.
Such practices are the inevitable consequence of Britain adopting this absurd UN target, supported by all major parties in Parliament – although significantly opposed by Angus Deaton, Britain’s Nobel-winning economist and renowned expert on global poverty.
The Government pumps up public debt to spray cash around the world on projects that often do more harm than good. No other G7 nation is silly enough to do the same; the US gives away just 0.17 per cent of national income.
Tomorrow, MPs can prove they are listening to the public. They should ditch a dodgy target that ends up pouring torrents of taxpayers’ cash down the drain.