Another interesting claim

The PM is considering a “temporary cut” to Britain’s aid spending, the Times‘ Francis Elliott, Steve Swinford and Lucy Fisher report. “Ministers have drawn up plans to reduce the proportion of Britain’s gross national income spent on aid from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent, saving billions.”

The Daily Express must be wetting itself with joy.

The Little Britainers are taking their chance just when the rest of the world faces food crises, increasing poverty, the impact of climate change and, of course, the need for coronavirus vaccines. Or, in other words, just when the need for aid is growing.

It’s at moments like these that you see the real, callous, meanness that underpins right-wing thinking. We can afford to give aid. But the Tories don’t want to do so. They would rather people suffered.

So, foreign aid at that 0.7% of GDP. GDP is down, substantially, this year. So, therefore so is aid. Or should be, even if we keep the 0.7%. At which point:

just when the rest of the world faces food crises, increasing poverty, the impact of climate change and, of course, the need for coronavirus vaccines. Or, in other words, just when the need for aid is growing.

It’s at moments like these that you see the real, callous, meanness that underpins right-wing thinking. We can afford to give aid. But the Tories don’t want to do so. They would rather people suffered.

Or, you know, perhaps the 0.7% isn’t the correct target? Possibly we should be working with some idea of how much should be spent, rather than a portion of summat else?

That is, the claim that we can’t cut aid when need is high is proof that we shouldn’t be having a target for aid at all, no?

49 thoughts on “Another interesting claim”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    Lockdowns cause more harm to the world’s poor than tinkering around with the % GDP we give out in aid ever will.

  2. Julija,

    Spot on. Also, much of this aid just gets pissed away because of the classic thing in government that if you don’t spend all your budget, you get it cut next year.

  3. ” I think we can all agree aid shouldn’t go to any country with a space programme, right?”

    Or any country with a vowel in its name.

  4. Possibly we should be working with some idea of how much should be spent, rather than a portion of summat else?

    What always seems to be forgotten in discussing this magic 0.7% of GDP figure, is that it specifically only includes public sector aid. All funds raised by voluntary donation (which in the UK probably exceeds the public sector amount) is totally ignored.

  5. …….. we should be working with some idea of how much should be BORROWED BY THE GOVERNMENT AND THEN GIVEN AWAY TO OTHER COUNTRIES.

    I also liked the bit about space programmes.

  6. Typical left-wing focus on inputs rather than outputs. What does what we currently spend achieve and is that worth what we spend? Answer from lefties: “who cares what it achieves, look how virtuous I am by demanding we spend more”

  7. The money is there to be spent. (Much of it is borrowed). We keep hearing about poverty in the UK, free school meals, desperate people right here at home – and so my view, utterly shocking I know, is that charity should start at home. Spend a big fat 0% on overseas aid until our own shit is in order. God I’m a monster!

  8. About half of it is stolen, even DFID admits this. So Murphy would rather it was stolen by foreign criminals than spent on poor Britons.

    See how easy that game is to play?

  9. AIUI 0.7% is an entirely arbitrary number anyway
    Nothing stopping all those lobbyists and bien pensants making voluntary donations to NGOs

  10. Yes we do keep hearing about poverty in UK and free school meals from a footballer with £12-15m a year deep pockets but rather short arms.

  11. When will Murphy pledge to give away some of *his own* money?
    As a paid-up member of the Conservative Party I donate (a variable amount averaging a little more than 2% of my income) to helping genuinely poor people in third world countries – as and when Murphy does the same he will earn my permission to speak on the subject.

  12. The man’s chutzpah is matched only by his self-regard. Through immense ignorance of politics, history and economics, This clueless cretin advocates policies that citizens of one particular country swim a 10 mile polluted stretch of river,risking the imprisonment of their entire family to avoid, with apparently no shame. He then has the temerity to criticize anyone for their ‘callousness’ – I’d say I’m shocked but this type of almost pure evil seems to have no sense of shame or regret.

  13. I think we should give aid to the poorer nations of the globe. It is left wing to help the poor.
    The poor in countries like Africa, and Asia, have tough lives. We could give aid to cut illiteracy, famines, poverty, and infant mortality.

  14. We can afford to give aid.
    ‘We’? Why doesn’t the fat cunt put his hand in his own pocket?
    Britain is ramping up the debt by hundreds of billions; we are in no position to be handing out cash to the scam charity sector and 3rd world criminals.

  15. Do these countries even care that much about the aid they get, in terms of aligning with the UK on key issues in return, or even soft-culturally “liking” us? I read a lot about how their governments, at least, prefer Chinese development assistance which is generally more economically practically oriented and delivered with fewer qualms or strings attached. None of that “to remain eligible you have to stop murdering your minority groups and cut down on torturing your political prisoners” stuff the West tends to do, probably less concern whether local officials pocket a share too.

    Here’s an alternative idea that I think is actually pretty solid as a compromise and rather wish would would enter general circulation.

    Fine, spend some not-totally-trivial percent of GDP on “worthwhile” projects to salve our popular conscience and bolster our international reputation. But don’t just fund minor Ethiopian girl bands (seriously) and a thousand other minor projects nobody will ever hear of. Make it Big, distinctive, mission-based stuff so that everyone round the world knows it was us wot dun it. And spend almost all of the cash right here (okay some of what follows has nontrivial logistics costs associated but may be possible to get international support for that, just make sure the branding of the product delivered is very explicitly British).

    Cure malaria. Sort out viral hepatitis, TB, some of the other infectious diseases which have particularly bad impact on the developing world. Invent the next line of antibiotics. Design a Britbog – something cheap and safe and sanitary that can be used where water infrastructure is poor – and build millions of them. Whatever. Just pick out some Big challenges and attack them so that if future generations ask “what have the Brits done for us since 2000” there’ll be an obvious and big-ticket answer.

    Meanwhile we would have shovelled money at our own biotech / pharma / engineering / manufacturing centres and we may eg be more resilient when the next nasty infectious disease comes along.

    If you don’t agree with aid spending or indeed much government spending full stop, this may never appeal to you. But if we are going to do anything, why not this? After all we’re all supposed to use our specialisms to our advantage and we’re often told how good Britain is at biosciences…

  16. Bad timing. Cutting foreign aid is for a few months’ before the next GE. Make the lefties’ heads explode and shore up the red wall vote.

  17. Doing clinical trials on cheap drugs ( aspririn, dexamethasone ) and then sharing the outcomes with the rest of the world – that’s got to be a form of foreign aid surely.
    In low income countries they need to know whether cheap drugs and treatments make a difference.

  18. @Bongo

    That’s probably a lot more useful and better value for money than pulling off a show-stopper, but rather harder to brag to the world about how brilliant we are for doing it, sadly…

  19. Bloke in North Dorset

    The poor in countries like Africa, and Asia, have tough lives. We could give aid to cut illiteracy, famines, poverty, and infant mortality.

    We’ve been trying that as long as I can remember, at that goes back to collecting milk bottle tops in the early ’60s so that Blue Peter could supply wells and stuff, and yet we’ve still got the same problems.

    I’m not against helping out, I’m not even against the idea of a percentage of GDP in principle, I am against the way it doesn’t appear to make a shit of difference because all we appear to be doing is lining pockets and then we still get told that we’re racist skinflints.

    I’d be more than happy to give the money to the Copenhagen Consensus and scrapping DfID or whatever its called now as part of the FO. We’d probably save more than we’re giving away as well.

    And as Tim often points out, if you really want to help the poor, buy their goods.

  20. I’m wondering what they did with all those milk-bottle tops I collected. Weren’t they supposed to fix Africa?

  21. OTOH, I once made a bunch of dough consulting in an East-European country after the curtain went down, working for a company funded by USAID. I made money, the company made money. Nothing wrong with foreign aid at all, is there?

  22. Why do these countries need any aid? Surely they can just print lots of their own money and buy everything they need?

  23. I though the Blue Peter milk bottle tops paid for guide dogs for the blind. Or was that the old newspapers we also used to collect?

  24. @Andrew C: careful now, Murphy is going to claim that idea. Why don’t these countries’ governments just spend lots of money. Must be evil Tory austerity.

  25. How much must you hate a country to give it aid?

    “The poor in countries like Africa, and Asia”

    Are you speaking for the continent of England?

    ‘have tough lives’

    The words of a colonialist.

  26. The poor in countries like Africa, and Asia, have tough lives. We could give aid to cut illiteracy

    I think we really need to work on literacy at home before we look overseas. Those poor starving primitives in Japan, South Korea and Singapore will have to wait.

  27. MBE are you aware of

    https://youtu.be/W3JZ1j5R8SI

    “ Dr. Bjorn Lomborg is Director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and Visiting Professor at Copenhagen Business School. He researches the smartest ways to help the world, for which he was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. His numerous books include The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cool It, How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place and The Nobel Laureates’ Guide to the Smartest Targets for the World 2016-2030. ”

  28. Abolish DfID and foreign aid, leave it to charities (and no Gov’t funding to them). Disasters? How much are DEC sitting on?

    Who’s against the reduction to 0.5% – Dominic Rabb, wannabe PM

    RItchie: “We can afford to give aid”

    Go ahead Mr Murphy, donate. Don’t assume everyone can afford to – starving children, foodbanks, eat or heat…

    Relevant
    Good article, I agree with all points

    Who’ll grab the steering wheel from out-of-control Johnson?
    “…Out of ideas, incapable of thinking clearly, and apparently beholden to his girlfriend, Johnson today is neck-deep in a sunk-cost fallacy, unable to retreat or to advance…”

    The glaring problem is replace with who? I can’t name a single MP who would be up to the job, vast majority are in thrall to the power of fear & woke. Suggestions?

    Could Farage be PM if ennobled?

  29. Lords haven’t been PM since the 19thC. Alec Douglas-Home had to renounce his, as did Lord Hailsham when he aspired but didn’t make it. There will be no appetite to go back.

  30. I wonder if he understands that that aid money is taken from people to be given to other people.

    Yes, those other people might be in a worse situation now – but so are the people the aid money is being taken from.

    And I still don’t get where the idea that my government is supposed to take my money and give it away to foreigners in preference to ‘my own people’ – but I’m not supposed to want to trade with those same foreigners – comes from.

    I instituted this government to take care of things within and for my nation, not the whole world.

  31. “Could Farage be PM if ennobled?”

    Aside from the unlikelihood of a Lord as PM, there also seems no realistic short-term path to Farage being ennobled nor for him to command a majority in the Commons. It’s a suggestion which hasn’t the slightest connection to reality. If there were some mass Faragist upwelling in the Commons, which there isn’t, it would probably be a more straightforward manoeuvre (as has been done when people have needed transplanting to the Commons in the past) for one of his backers to resign from a safe seat and let Farage in via by-election, assuming the Tories allowed him to run without serious contest.

  32. Bloke in Wales
    November 17, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    Possibly we should be working with some idea of how much should be spent, rather than a portion of summat else?

    What always seems to be forgotten in discussing this magic 0.7% of GDP figure, is that it specifically only includes public sector aid. All funds raised by voluntary donation (which in the UK probably exceeds the public sector amount) is totally ignored.

    Yeah, these people only ever focus on what the government does. If it doesn’t happen through government then it doesn’t happen.

    Does Amazon produce value for people – only through the tax it pays. Apparently the actual services it provides are valueless unless they can be taxed.

    If you volunteer your time you’re robbing the state of tax revenue! You heartless right-winger.

  33. @I sneeze in threes

    Yeah there are various “rationalist” approaches (I think they’d all largely be happy to be classed in that bracket) to the globally “optimal” use of aid resources. Some of that is even filtering into DFID actually, particularly the notion of evidence-based policy and doing trials for certain kinds of interventions.

    My suggestion is deliberately somewhat anti-rational, at least in the sense “don’t try and do what’s ‘best’, in your view, for the world as a whole”. If anything takes off it’s all likely to be delivered in big international partnerships anyway, so who is going to remember you (in particular, not the West in general) or thank you for it? Where’s the “achievement”? What’s the payback going to be?

    I think there’s a good, but selfish, case to pick a couple of core ideas from that wishlist, maybe even just a single one, that have the right mix of ambitious, achievable (primarily by one country acting alone), have most of the work done within the UK itself, and are the kind of thing you’ll be remembered forever for. Perhaps not “America got to the moon” level, but “Britain conquered (name of nasty disease goes here)” would still be pretty good. And there are indeed lots of nasty diseases out there that have largely evaded the attention of the pharma industry because it isn’t profitable for them, so it’s not absurd to imagine that the diversion of UK resources to such a programme might find something relatively cheap and effective. Could even more be achieved via international collaboration, spending more money on “local partners”, tackling a broader range of goals? Yep, probably, but there’s a case (political if not exactly moral) to not care too much about that.

  34. Bongo’s drug testing proposal certainly sounds good.

    I also whole-heartedly agree with Julia’s ban on countries that have a space program; and yes I do mean India.

    But on the whole, I’d argue that the entire foreign aid vote should be re-labelled bribes, and spent for the benefit of the UK. I’m thinking here of the one foreign aid payment that I really agreed with; the Australian Wheat Board bribed one Saddam’s officials to accept an Australian offer. It will not surprise you to hear that there is no longer a Wheat Board.

  35. @Boganboy

    Not just India either…

    South Africa- https://www.sansa.org.za

    Nigeria- http://www.nasrda.gov.ng

    Ethiopia- https://etssti.org

    Plenty more surprising ones – Philippines, Egypt, Kenya. Not sure whether it should be a disqualifying attribute bearing in mind what a lot of these countries are doing is at the cheap end of the scale (India’s programme is much more fully fledged) and one of the ways we keep telling these countries to get rich is to do some technological catch-up. But if you’ve got people in desperate need of basic services and lots of kids aren’t even getting a primary school education, shelling out for a couple of satellites is a funny choice to be making if you’re also asking for external help.

  36. Government should have nothing to do with giving away the money it steals from its’ subjects to anyone in another country. If an individual wants to give aid to some cause elsewhere then feel free.

    Compare the rates of growth, progress and poverty reduction in India and Asia to Africa since 1970 despite the vastly greater sums given to Africa.

    Foreign aid = taking money from poor people in rich countries and giving it to rich people in poor countries.

  37. I think there’s a good, but selfish, case to pick a couple of core ideas from that wishlist, maybe even just a single one, that have the right mix of ambitious, achievable (primarily by one country acting alone), have most of the work done within the UK itself, and are the kind of thing you’ll be remembered forever for. Perhaps not “America got to the moon” level, but “Britain conquered (name of nasty disease goes here)” would still be pretty good. And there are indeed lots of nasty diseases out there that have largely evaded the attention of the pharma industry because it isn’t profitable for them, so it’s not absurd to imagine that the diversion of UK resources to such a programme might find something relatively cheap and effective.

    @MyBurningEars

    Isn’t that basically what the Gates Foundation is doing?

    We all know what Ritchie thinks about Gates spending his private money doing something that the government could do if only he had handed all his billions to them…

    [great comment, btw]

  38. kind of thing you’ll be remembered forever for. Perhaps not “America got to the moon” level, but “Britain conquered (name of nasty disease goes here)” would still be pretty good

    Tuberculosis, Schistosomiasis (bilharzia), Polio if the locals would allow the vaccine to be administered.

  39. MBE “I think there’s a good, but selfish, case to pick a couple of core ideas from that wishlist, maybe even just a single one, that have the right mix of ambitious, achievable (primarily by one country acting alone), have most of the work done within the UK itself, and are the kind of thing you’ll be remembered forever for.”

    Like, threads passim, abolishing the slave trade?

  40. @djc

    Yes, was explicitly thinking of that. Or how much richer the world is as a result of the Industrial Revolution, though that’s a bit shakier since it wasn’t an explicitly moral crusade and would probably just have trundled forwards at most a few decades later somewhere else, almost certainly in Western Europe, if we hadn’t kickstarted it. But there are some obvious practical issues going around trumpeting “almost 200 years ago we abolished the slave trade, worra nation!” (If you, personally, happen to be proud of it, then great. Not taking any issue with that. My personal inclination is not to shoulder responsibility – prideworthy or blameworthy – for things I’m only connected to via accident of birth. Hence no guilt from me over what Britain did or did not do X-hundred years ago. But I understand this is entirely a matter of taste, and if someone wants to feel great pride or great shame at some historic episode, that’s on them – unlike some people, I don’t even think that behaviour is inherently irrational, since accepting the past arguably comes with the territory of feeling part of or identifying with a particular group. My argument here is entirely pragmatic – what are the problems with waving a banner of “And we shut down the slave trade an’all!” as if it’s Britain’s USP?)

    – “We did a good thing, about 200 years ago” is a bit laurel-resty really isn’t it? Even “we stood alone against Hitler when we could have chosen a negotiated peace, and fought from the start of the War to the end” is sounding a bit lamer these days, now that most of the folk who actually did the hard slog of it have died off. Could do with a more contemporary twist.

    – There’s plenty of stuff in our history that doesn’t look great, particularly to outsiders, doubly particularly to outsiders on the receiving end of it. It’s quite useful to be able to say “look, times have changed, the country’s moved on, I can’t speak for my great-great-great-great-grandma’s generation, many of my ancestors from that period weren’t even British back then…” or whatever. Defining how good we are around something that happened so long ago is just inviting the counter-argument that we need to “own” the bad stuff too.

    – We didn’t exactly come into it with clean hands. Shouting from the rooftops that we’re great for abolishing the slave trade, immediately shifts attention to the fact that, for a while, plenty of Britons (as with other nationalities) did rather well from partaking in and expanding the slave trade. Rather wiser to turn the historic spotlight now-wards. If Britain abolishes some horrible disease, nobody (okay, there’s always the Guardian…) would complain that just demonstrates how much Britain had been profiting from the horrible disease in the past. There’s actually quite a convincing moral case that abolishing something you found profitable is more virtuous than abolishing something you found nasty and potentially dangerous. But it’s one of those arguments that you never want to be caught making publicly because you sound so much worse for saying it.

    – Target audience. Who are you even trying to impress? Other countries that took part in the African slave trade would rather not be reminded either of what they did or Britain’s role in stopping them doing it. It’s like getting a reheated version of a moral lecture from hundreds of years back, from some smug so-and-so who used to do the bad thing too, so who are they to speak? They’d rather believe they stopped doing it from their own moral progress. Countries that had sod-all to do with the African slave trade (but usually had their own domestic equivalent of slavery) are going to find it a pretty irrelevant brag. Some of the things Britain replaced slavery with, like bonded Asian labour, aren’t a great thing to be reminding either the source or destination countries of. And African and Caribbean countries have plenty of slavery and colonialism-related bones to pick with the UK, so “we saved you from slavery” isn’t the best line to go in with. I think it works quite well as something the majority of Brits can be proud of, though even there it raises divisions, but it just doesn’t translate well at all to the rest of the world.

    I genuinely cannot think of another grand step forward in human history where the ratio of the greatness and selflessness of the achievement to the utter lousiness of its PR value is so extreme. If we’re going to use the aid budget to make ourselves look good, let’s make it spectacular and slap the national brand all over it. Though e.g. if it turns out Britvax or Britisine is only partially effective against malaria but babies grow second heads, there are some obvious downside risks…

  41. @Addolff November 18, 2020 at 7:17 am
    +1 Spot on. It’s my money Gov’t is giving away to virtue signal

    @MBE November 17, 2020 at 11:25 pm

    “Britain conquered (name of nasty disease goes here)” would still be pretty good

    Like Cholera, Smallpox etc? Few remember.

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