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HomeNewsCarry on squandering – it’s business as usual for foreign aid

Carry on squandering – it’s business as usual for foreign aid


ON Wednesday Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined his plans to inject billions into the economy. The money has to come from somewhere. A pity, then, that he didn’t remove the ring-fenced budget of the Department for International Aid and Development (DfID). The money squandered by the mandarins who run this travesty of a department would be more useful here than in places such as China and Somalia.  

When Boris Johnson appointed Anne-Marie Trevelyan as International Development Secretary I didn’t have high hopes. Not because she isn’t a decent MP, for she is. But because I knew, like most of her predecessors, she would partake of the same woke Kool-Aid which seemingly affects them the moment they walk into DfID. Trevelyan has certainly wasted no time virtue-signalling and excusing DfID’s flagrant spending.

Given the charge sheet against China – not just its venality in dealing with the coronavirus and the consequential cost to the global economy, but Huawei, buying up our industries, its responsibility for a third of the world’s pollution and its debt trap diplomacy – for DfID to continue its financial dealings with the Chinese government is highly questionable if not immoral. But for the tin-eared mandarins who run DfID, it’s business as usual.

It may have stopped China bilateral aid in 2011, but instead DfID now flings millions of pounds at the Chinese government in the name of ‘partnership’, the current budget standing at £25.7million. This finances a total of 57 projects including ‘partnering’ with the China Development Bank, a Chinese government-owned organisation.

This is DfID aid by another means. Prettying it up with words like ‘partnership’ doesn’t hide the reality that Britain is giving free money to a country which is not only economically powerful but is also a fervent and destructive colonialist, channelled mainly through its Belt and Road project, which has put numerous countries into a debt trap. 

Zambia is one such to fall victim to this scheme. Loans from China make up 65.8 per cent of Zambia’s external debt. Should the Zambian government default on their payments, China plans to take over their state-owned companies. Given that China’s economy has taken a hit from the coronavirus this might happen very soon. Italy’s joining of the Belt and Road project last year may prove even more unwise. 

China’s policies in Africa have been ruthless. In 2005 Robert Mugabe’s security forces demolished the homes and businesses of thousands living in impoverished settlements outside Harare. This merciless displacement of some of the poorest people in Zimbabwe was called ‘Operation Murambatsvina’. China prevented a discussion of this at the UN to cosy up to Mugabe for its own economic gain. 

Mining is key to China’s economic colonialism into Africa. Chinese mining owners displace locals from jobs, preferring to bring in their own workers from China. Their labour and environmental practices fall way below international standards. The consequences of all this are devastating to impoverished Africans. Why would we be partnering with any country that does this?

Not that DfID needs any help in creating messes of its own. Its funding of various despotic regimes in the region is an ongoing insult to British taxpayers. With an almost breathtaking stupidity DfID allocated £190million to Somalia in 2019/20, almost a quarter of that going to the Somalian government. Yet Somalia is number three on Open Doors’ World Watch List of the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most rife. This failed state has been on the list for years. No amount of of DfID aid is having any effect on alleviating the plight of Somalian Christians.

Their persecution worsened from the moment the Somalian government capitulated to Islamists terrorists in 2009 by implementing Sharia law. This small population continues to be terrorised by Al-Shabaab who have said they want to kill every one of them. 

Yet DfID continues to prop up the Somalian government, since 2016 allocating £34,700,000 to a project called the ‘Somalia Security and Justice Programme’. 

It is beyond belief that that these millions have been given to strengthen a judicial system in which brutal and misogynistic Sharia law is practised, corruption is rife, the plight of persecuted Christians is ignored and journalists are targeted by the government. This excerpt from DfID’s 2109 review of this programme is telling:

‘The role of strategic lead was filled for a short time, but the occupant was not a good fit for the job and as such it was vacated, with the recruitment for the wider Leadership Team also stalled as a result. At time of writing this is still vacant. The implications of this missing leadership have been seen throughout the programme with a lack of joined up thinking between different components of the programme.’ 

Management-speak can’t hide the glaring fact that DfID doesn’t seem to have a clue what it is doing. 

Britain is facing many serious social and economic issues. We can’t afford to play financial fairy godmother for the world’s despotic regimes. How many more Swiss bank accounts must be filled with British taxpayers’ money until the government finally says enough? Noble aims are meaningless when services veterans in the UK are sleeping on the streets, pensioners have to choose between heating and eating and the country is facing a health crisis. Charity needs to begin at home.

The question that every international development secretary should ask him or herself, but never does, is why poverty and deprivation in Africa persists despite the billions of pounds channelled there over the years. If the system of foreign aid worked, we would be seeing major positive results by now. That we haven’t should surely ring alarm bells, if not for the civil servants who run DfID, then at least for sensible MPs like Anne-Marie Trevelyan. 

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Karen Harradine
Karen Harradine
Karen is an anthropologist and freelance journalist. She writes on anti-Semitism, Israel and spirituality. She is @KarenH777on Twitter.

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