FEW THINGS offend the liberal elite like criticism of foreign aid. Critics often rely on tired tropes such as “trade not aid”, as if the two are mutually exclusive, yet proponents are even more contrived in their praise of it.
The government has seen-off a rebellion in its plans to cut foreign aid by £4bn this year. Rather than take a side I think this fork in the road for the Tories is actually a very good point on which we should all reflect on the concept and the reality of foreign aid. Something we rarely discuss is how foreign aid could aid the development of rich countries like our own. So often, this is missed entirely.
David Cameron is plucking his harp on social media bemoaning cuts to a foreign aid programme that mushroomed under him. Perhaps we should explore this legacy a little closer.
We could start with the top five recipients of Britain’s foreign aid and ask the question, are they developing? Or perhaps even, are they going backwards?
Pakistan: The jewel of the foreign aid empire. Over 200m people under Shariah law, where blasphemy can see you executed by the state. Yes, that includes Oxford graduate little Malala. If she were back in Pakistan and committed blasphemy, the government could have her murdered quite legally. This is a country developing nuclear weapons, long range missiles and sponsoring Islamic militants for decades.
Ethiopia: When it comes to global rankings of anything good, Ethiopia can be found wandering at the very bottom. Press freedom, democracy, human rights – you name it and Ethiopia lacks it in spades. When not engaged in domestic sectarian slaughter it has a hate/hate relationship with its neighbour Eritrea compared to which it may as well be Butlins.
Afghanistan: There some places less habitable than Afghanistan, Mars for example. It barely registers as a country without a central authority which administers the world’s largest slush fund. Hundreds of billions have evaporated here and its name carries infamy throughout global history and geography. Its government is so awful even the Taliban are looked upon favourably by many and just as well as it is likely taking over the place very soon.
It’s one of Dave’s favourites though, having been called “fantastically corrupt” by our former PM.
Yemen: The one true tragedy among the five, because its collapse has become so much more dramatic over the past ten years. Saudi Arabia and Iran have used and abused Yemen’s people in an appalling sectarian turf war with hundreds of thousands dead, or starving their way in that direction. What is galling here is that both Riyadh and Tehran have the funds for war but still the West is expected to clean up the mess left behind.
Nigeria: No matter how much oil is pumped from the Niger Delta, poverty remains. Another one of Dave’s favourites, corruption in Nigeria is of another class. The entire country appears to operate by oil money greasing the wheels of the economy yet this is one of three centres on Earth, together with Pakistan and Afghanistan, that shelters Polio. The reason is Islamic fundamentalists in power in much of the north, hindering the UN vaccination programme.
It is hard to think that but for the Shariah death cult legal systems in power the world would have been free of Polio for twenty years by now. The reason the world continues with Polio vaccination is because of Shariah controlled areas of these three countries.
Proponents say foreign aid buys us influence in these countries but what does that really mean? How can these countries be corrupt but we remain transparent in buying influence in them? If an arms company operated in this way, and many do, corporate slush funds would be attacked and rightly so. Why is state sponsored corruption acceptable if the British or French governments do it but the private sector is pilloried for it? There are three things that stand out in these five countries.
The first is that all of them murder and torture their own people, quite legally. They are active users of the death penalty and extrajudicial killing is likewise tolerated. This matters as does their routine use of torture in prisons. Penal reform isn’t the most photogenic aspect of foreign aid but it should be. When people claim asylum here, and are found to warrant it, what exactly are they fleeing? They are fleeing torture. We expect the UN to inspect uranium enrichment centres but point a finger at mediaeval sadistic prisons and drumhead courts and we are told we are being offensive. Backward justice by tyrants is a weapon of mass destruction and dispersion too.
The second is they tolerate or even embrace Shariah. There is no point discussing this in half measure. Shariah is not about interest free loans or innovative financial products for businesses. It is about denying justice to at least half the adult population. Safety, property rights, not having bits chopped off are simply denied in these countries. Though President Trump was derided for calling these countries “shitholes” one can’t deny there is something in it.
Deny half your people economic freedom and the results are obvious. It has never worked and even where Shariah practicing countries enjoy wealth through oil, they still have their welfare budgets sapped to cover economic lethargy. There are few better ways of boosting child poverty than keeping women poor.
The third is that these countries have statist and often socialist economies. It has been proven beyond doubt and beyond reason that socialism is a disastrous economic system. The idea of people far away making better decisions for you better than yourself is now so offensive that it is (still) largely confined to student politics in the West and while the state is far too large in most of our countries it is not all economic planning like it remains in these countries. If you want to create a famine, nationalise food production.
Poverty is no longer a majority concern for humanity but increasingly falls below our natural ground state. That is, it is increasingly becoming an effort to keep the poor poor. I have called these three deadweights murder, shariah and socialism but the last two have known other names in the past. Dickens called them Ignorance and Want. As a parent I notice this part of A Christmas Carol much more than I used to and it stirs emotions every time I watch it.
Dickens referred to the wretches hiding beneath the ghost of Christmas present as Ignorance and Want, sheltered as they are beneath good cheer and wealth. The most sinister words of the story come from the ghost himself,
“And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree; but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”
We have travelled over a century and spent hundreds of billions on aid but the West is still blind to Ignorance and Want. In truth we are sheltering both so long as we give foreign aid to governments that promote them. We cannot say it is difficult to bring literacy to men or legal rights to women. In truth, it is no effort at all yet we have become used to a confection of excuses for why these countries remain in such material, and social, poverty.
We are funding Ignorance and Want and in doing so we are funding hate too and indulging in the racism of low expectations. A very woke Christmas Carol because without political correctness could we still tolerate such backward government elsewhere?
Polio is not acceptable anywhere or shouldn’t be. It should be eradicated for all mankind. We have not even begun to try and tackle the basics in these countries. In Europe we have, finally, reached a point where support for death penalty is in the minority, or rapidly approaching it. What began as an experiment in the 1960s for Britain has become part of our way of life and values. We have long reached the conclusion that torture dehumanises all of us, as much the torturer as the tortured. No one would dream of returning to a time where women were denied legal autonomy from men and basic property rights.
So why do we accept these elsewhere? Surely eradicating this level of Ignorance and Want would be very good evidence of development. Should this not be the baseline now for humanity? No executions for crimes against authority? Legal autonomy of women? Transparent or increasingly transparent government? Removal of the state from the supply of essentials?
If so, then we need to stop funding hate, death, Ignorance and Want. We need to be clear,
“There is absolutely nothing preventing these countries exiting the dark ages. They remain there because we shelter that darkness under our good cheer and plenty that is foreign aid. We allow their rich access to our society in return.”
Not every debate need be a dichotomy of student level politics and slogans. We can aid countries by boosting their ability to trade through training, modern port facilities, scholarships and access to our markets. We make clear that jet fighters will not be sold “on the tick” to countries where basic sewerage is not in place.
We can go further and demand prisons be inspected openly and to protect those from torture and murder through legal reform. Again, there is nothing stopping countries allowing their prisons to be inspected. Until these basics are met we should not fund these governments with aid. I’d prefer we shut off our universities and shopping centres to the children of tyrants and their civil service but the least we can do is not fund the wilfully backward any longer.
Trump may not have had the right focus or language but the principle is there. If the powerful in their countries had to open their prisons to inspections and sort out female illiteracy so heir governments’ ministers’ wives can shop at Harrods, I suspect that effort would be made.
We need to stop aiding and abetting and start aiding only those who show they have the will to develop.