Stop the great aid giveaway

Published by The Sun (20th December, 2016)

EVERY day there seems to be a new scandal involving Britain’s booming aid budget.

Yesterday there were stories of £5.2million to fund a radio show for an Ethiopian pop group and billions more dumped in obscure World Bank funds.

On Sunday charity chiefs taking cash from British taxpayers were revealed to be pocketing up to £618,000 in their annual pay package. Former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband collects an astonishing £530,922 as head of the International Rescue Committee, which gets £3.6million a year from Britain.

Meanwhile, which Government department pays staff the highest salaries? Yes, those from the Department of International Development claiming to be aiding the world’s poor. Their £52,700 median salaries are TWICE the Whitehall average.

Rich people are getting richer while they pontificate about helping the poor.

This is the inevitable consequence of the daftest law passed in recent years: The decision backed by all mainstream parties to lash Britain to a discredited United Nations target.

Politicians thought they looked compassionate posing as saviours of the world, spraying vast sums of taxpayers’ money around the planet. Instead, they just look incompetent, ill-informed and out of touch.

Now Britain is hitting a target ignored by most wealthy nations and scorned by experts. Thanks to this law passed last year, Britain must dole out 0.7 per cent of national income on aid in perpetuity.

This random figure was cooked up more than half a century ago by campaigners using old, back-of-the-envelope calculations.

It ignores needs on the ground — let alone the Government’s ability to control floods of gold gushing from its coffers.

The sums are stupendous — currently £12billion a year and due to rise to £16billion by the next election.

This is borrowed money, driving up our deficit while vital British services struggle.

The Sun revealed British taxpayers helped fund 23 police stations in the Democratic Republic of Congo while 29 police stations closed in Lancashire alone.

It has become painfully obvious that if Prime Minister Theresa May wants to help the “just about managings” she could use a slice of this cash to salvage our creaking care system, rather than ramp up council taxes.

There is currently a £2.5billion shortfall in social care funding. And state schools have been told they need to find £3billion of savings by 2019-20 because of funding shortages. And the funding pressures will only intensify as these foreign aid sums soar.

There is depressing arrogance behind these polices.

First, the contempt for British people who are becoming increasingly infuriated at seeing vast sums frittered away on spurious schemes.

And second, perhaps even more alarmingly, this stance displays shameful contempt for people in poor countries.

For these self-serving policies, cheered on by charities and consultancy firms milking projects around the planet, often cause more harm than good.

This aid boom fuels conflict, feeds corruption and fosters the corrosion of democracy by promoting welfare dependency. Local rulers end up reacting to demands of rich foreigners, rather than responding to pressures from their own people.

We give cash to countries with space programmes. We hand over £285m for an airport on St Helena  that cannot be used for commercial flights because of wind.

We fund nations that themselves give aid to poorer places. And we pump aid into some of the world’s most repulsive regimes.

So we spend £340million in Ethiopia, a Stalinist, one-party state that has been slaughtering democracy protesters. We even helped officials with the loathsome North Korean government to learn English.

The tragic truth is noble ideas and well-meaning intentions have turned into an unseemly scam in too many places.

Chancellor Philip Hammond indicated earlier this month that the Government might look again at this stunt. He said a spending review would cover “tax commitments, spending commitments, ring-fences and so on”.

We must hope this review is more than a talking shop and results in action — fast.

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