Jane Kelly: India has a space programme and nukes. Why do we give it aid?

The first commuting day of 2017 began with the news that rail fares are to rise by nearly two and a half per cent to fund the ‘modernisation’ of the network. This massive task, lagging by about 150 years, is to be funded by the public, not the sleazy rail networks, those instruments of privatised ‘choice’ who make millions of pounds of profit every year, much of it going to foreign owners.

That information rather curdled the breakfast kipper as it came with other news, from a Government dossier on foreign aid released quietly just before Christmas, in what The Sunday Times called ‘an obscure section of a Whitehall website,’ which showed that the UK Government gave nearly £100,000 last year to the Indian city of Pune to advise on setting up an ‘intelligent’ bus network.

Research last February from the Campaign for Better Transport revealed that subsidies to rural bus routes in the UK have been reduced by £78 million since 2010, with another £27 million under threat. The report said: ‘Councils say difficult decisions are being made amid government cuts.’

No one wants to sound Scroogelike as we enter a new year but foreign aid is now an issue as pressing as our budget to the EU. It is obviously a good thing to give. Our £13 billion a year in aid has made life more tolerable for thousands of families in refugee camps in Jordan and helped control the dreaded ebola virus and fight HIV in Africa. But the largest recipients are Pakistan, Ethiopia and Nigeria, in that order. India received over £150 million last year, a country with its own nuclear and space programmes, which recently overtook Britain as the world’s sixth biggest economy.

According to The Economist, India spent one billion dollars on its space programme last year. Their spending on public health, at 1.2 per cent of GDP, it called ‘dismally low.’

David Cameron,  a nice man, was keen to keep up our foreign aid budget. Mrs May is a harder case, but she too is sanguine about this giant spending spree to wealthy countries. She wants to discourage people we don’t want, and particularly the Brexiteering public don’t want, from coming here. To make them happier at home so they will stay put. But the chief idea is to keep on friendly terms with often vile and cupidinous foreign elites.

We have recently spent £250,000 snuggling up to officials in North Korea and continued hand-outs to China, the world’s second largest economy, including helping to finance their hospitals. We give money to terrible regimes and do not ask them any questions. Perhaps this is understandable with China and North Korea who are very hard to boss, but even with India, an old friend, we never ask why they still have nearly a million people with no access to clean drinking water, why they have fewer lavatories than Bangladesh, which is twenty three times smaller? Why they still have a third of the world’s underweight children and mass illiteracy?

Back in 2012 there was some murmuring from MPs about making aid conditional on improved governance but no action was taken. Instead the Department for International Development continues making extraordinary contortions in its attempts to please; guinea pigs to Peru and sexual partners for fish in Madagascar, a scheme to get more women MPs in India, even though there are so few here; and to keep this going they are now endangering the living standards of their own people.

As we enter 2017 spending as if we had an economy the size of China or India seems to many no longer fitting; we have a railway that increasingly only the well off can afford to use, declining bus services which hits poorer and older people in rural areas. Women approaching sixty have lost on average £35,000 each as their pension age has been raised and small comforts, such as free bus travel, removed. Cameron’s precious ‘triple lock’ on pensions, keeping the level above inflation, is also threatened.

There is a spending crisis in the NHS. In many areas, free treatments such as removal of varicose veins, cysts, tonsils, and carpel tunnel surgery have disappeared. There are long waiting lists for back pain clinics, joint replacements and cataract operations. It can take five months to see a physiotherapist, even longer for a psychiatrist. We face agonising choices about which cancer drugs to fund. Hospital food is now ludicrously non-nutritious, costing less than two pounds per patient per day in some regions. In 2016 we heard continuous noise about the issue of social care. Our council taxes are about to rise so that the chronically sick and very old can live decently in their homes rather than block hospital beds or suffer neglect.

We hear Britain is still a wealthy country, the fifth richest in the world in 2015, which must be as surprising to many of its citizens as it is to rural Indians to learn that their homeland has one of the most burgeoning economies in the world. Like us they probably think, well where does all the money go?

The question in the UK is whether we can we still afford to go on giving lavishly for reasons of realpolitik rather than real altruism and emergency relief? And if we the people decided we would rather rein in overseas splurging, how can we get our Government, a wealthy elite speaking to other elites, to follow our wishes?

(Image: Jaskirat Singh Bawa)

Jane Kelly

  • David Keighley

    Linda Polman’s powerful book War Games illustrates brilliantly that even – and perhaps even especially – ‘aid’ given to war zones is wasted because it allows the protagonists of wars to continue and prolong hostilities. Florence Nightingale spent her life after Crimea fighting to ensure that every penny provided for humanitarian causes was properly directed and wisely spent. Those who run DfID today inhabit a very different universe where spending – any spending – is seen as the highest good without proper regard of the impact and benefits. Priti Patel said she would bludgeon change in her department – but already seems to have succumbed to profligacy over substance. Polman’s book is here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B004LLIH8Q/ref=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o00_?ie=UTF8&psc=1

  • John Birch

    And the worst thing is we have to borrow it to give it away. Absolute madness.

    • Groan

      Indeed so. The other madness is giving to countries which have such a long track record of corruption (the governance issue) and another the interference we’d no brook, how would we feel if India funded programmes to influence voting for more ethnic minority MPs? Why on earth would funding programmes to change the composition of the Indian parliament be “aid” ? There is quite a lot of the aid programmes designed to change society in the recipient nations, how this isn’t “imperialism” I don’t know.

  • We should only give aid to help with natural disasters. We should never give money which simply becomes part of another country’s budget, they need to learn to live within their means as otherwise they become like our work-shy who are content to live on benefits. Any aid given should be in terms of good or services, sourced within the UK wherever possible, which in itself would help our economy. Never give cash or any luxury goods which ends up with the, frequently corrupt, rulers.

  • b.edwards

    Why do we give aid?
    I’ll tell you why,because If we stopped throwing money we can ill afford willy-nilly around the world,while our services are being cut to the bone,we would be in serious danger of losing our number one spot as the worlds soft-touch,and that would be disastrous for the UK’s image on the world stage.
    Any more easy questions?

    • Greenlander

      You didn’t answer your own question, why do we give aid. There is no such thing as a free meal. If it isn’t to raise the living standards of people in poor countries to prevent them all swarming here, it’s to help introduce our businesses to their countries leaders.
      It’s basically trying to buy influence.

      • starfish

        Billions of aid has resulyted in millions of them swarming into western europe

        What are yopur measures of success?

      • Under-the-weather

        There’s evidence of centuries of trade in which the British govt had no income with which to buy “foreign” business. On what pretext is it required to supply `aid` now in exchange for foreign consumers buying what they would have bought anyway?. Consumers create income (to consume) from their own labour, consumption can only happen from an expansion of trade within a foreign country, the British govt can’t create a market for a British product by offering some foreign fat cat a free car, or even paying for a foreign run public service.

  • The Git at the Gobshites Rest

    Surely it is of more concern that we give aid to Pakistan? The Islamic bomb is controlled by Saudi Arabia through its proxy Pakistan. Why are we subsidising our own downfall.

  • Shadow Warrior

    >> It is obviously a good thing to give <<

    Is it?

    • starfish

      My thought exactly

    • Owen_Morgan

      “Is it?”

      At a personal level, yes, it is, provided the giving is backed up by serious thought. Money given to big-name, heavily political pseudo-charities probably never even leaves these shores and is highly unlikely to produce any discernible benefit beyond them. Smaller-scale, dedicated charities can achieve worthwhile results.

      As for DfID, I do not defend that. To paraphrase Falstaff, it is not only extravagant in itself, but the cause that extravagance is in other men. The object of the exercise is plainly to get through the ring-fenced budget, willy-nilly, and never mind the fact that the money is routinely wasted (not that DfID would be likely to know). Somebody once described foreign aid as the transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor ones. Countries which take a lot of foreign aid also tend to be the most lucrative markets for Mercedes-Benz limousines.

  • North Angle

    “She wants to discourage people we don’t want, and particularly the Brexiteering public don’t want, from coming here. To make them happier at home so they will stay put.”

    Or we could just have borders policed properly and illegal immigrants deported.

    The Dfid is not fit for purpose. It should be closed down and the money it throws out – along with the money thrown to the EU – should be used to fund this country’s services.

    I just don’t understand the point of “Foreign Aid” at all.

    • jim jones

      The point is Marxism, the Third World must be made equal to the First World

      • weirdvisions

        You’ve got that backwards. The First World must be de-industrialised and made equal to the Third World.

  • starfish

    the train operating companies (boo hiss) do not own the network

    So the first paragraph of this article is nonsense

    • Shadow Warrior

      Quite. The TrainCos pay the state owned bit (Network Rail) to let them run trains. The TrainCo claims compo from Network Rail if the delay (or whatever) is the network operator’s fault.

  • Colkitto03

    Good article Jane but i would question Britain being the fifth richest Country in the world.
    I do question how that is worked out.
    At the moment we are 1.6 trillion pounds in debt and paying about a billion pounds a week in interest on that.
    At least my mortgage is secured against a house but the nations debt is secured against nothing.
    We may be rich in terms of private wealth but our debt as a percentage of GDP is looking really bad.

    • John Birch

      I absolutely agree, it’s an absolute nonsense to make these claims.

  • Peel

    The primary issue surely is the Clegg dogma that a fixed national tithe, 0.7% of GDP, must be sent abroad in aid. Just as he got the eco-carbon percentage cutting fixed into law and that has led to the Hinckley Point insanity. Mrs May should have ended this unconstituional binding of future parliaments to politically correct causes. Cameron agreed as it was part of his project ‘I’m a nice man really, despite being an Etonian toff’ spin campaign of guilty apology for who he is and his background. This public school guilt is responsible for most of the Clegg-Cameron destruction of recent years.

  • ethanedwards2002

    Why Indeed. Keep voting for the LibLabCons and keep getting the same results.
    Spotted the pattern yet?
    For continued waste inefficiency duplicity and mendacity just keep voting for the usual suspects. Go back to your constituencies and prepare for the elites to continue to utterly ignore you.
    Or vote for someone else. Your choice.

  • John Shakespeare

    If the purpose of overseas aid is to placate foreign governments, I am having some difficulty distinguishing it from Danegeld.

  • Under-the-weather

    A few points. This article starts off with a customary besmirching of profitable railway companies, as though making a profit is a resident evil. A profit is what all companies have to create to survive, build infrastructure, and maintain competitiveness. Profit also creates the basis on which pensioners can create a passive income, and the reason/reward why entrepreneurs take on the huge risk and work involved in developing any business. If they’re successful they might be able to offer somebody a job, worse case, they could end up completely broke. Society revolves around profit. Unless you’re a closet Marxist, there’s nothing wrong with profit, and I’m sick to the teeth of reading/listening to people rant as though there is.

    Second, there’s a huge assumption being made that infrastructure is still 150 years behind the times. Here’s the first company I picked on to check out, Govia. A partnership which was formed from what was a bus franchise, they now operate something like 35% of all UK train journeys.
    Govia (according to them), and just for Thameslink, from their stated turnover spent £50m on stations and have acquired 1398 new carriages, increasing capacity by 50%. Here’s news of financing a new northern fleet, financed partly by investors.

    The last point I’d like to make is that having slung mud at profit making, there appears to be broad acceptance of a council tax rise, `virtue signalling`? for the extra spending intended by councils on local services for the elderly. This acceptance without having investigated what it is, or whether there`s a more efficient, or less costly alternative elsewhere.

    Competition reduces profit, such that it’s possible to compare industries and find that companies operating in the same industry, often end up with about the same percentage profit. Where there is no profit (the state) there’s no competition to increase efficiency, because consumers have no choice .

  • John Smith

    as with all these things the question is at what point do we stop? what metric will be used?

    is it when their GDP is bigger than ours?

    Do we still give to China, the biggest econmy in the world?

    heres another question

    have we EVER stopped payments to ANY country?? or even reduced it?

    I bet I know the answer

    • Ben Ones

      I doubt this is even possible as the UK GDP grows, the foreign aid budget also goes up, and since every penny has to be spent by years end they will be loading up money trucks to get the money out of the country as quickly as possible.

  • Ben Ones

    Don’t forget Pakistan is the number one aid destination paid for by the British taxpayers who have this enforced upon them by the tory government. Pakistan also has nukes, is a virtual military dictatorship and has been the epicentre and cradle of islamic terrorism backed by their own military, but somehow the government thinks it is alright to provide cash loaded ATM cards for all and sundry. India has already said they don’t want UK aid, but non the less NGOs set up organisations in the India and their pockets are filled up. Remember how Osama Bin Laden was found hiding next to a military base in Pakistan and the government and military of Pakistan denied all knowledge.

  • CheshireRed

    I listened as ex DFiD minister Andrew Mitchell gamely defended our lavish overseas aid budget on BBC R5 Live this morning….and didn’t buy his ‘arguments’ for even one single second. Time to reduce our OA budget to £2 billion pa and that’s it. The madness must stop.

  • Ken

    Unfortunately, we have politicians who like virtue-signalling with our money. Nothing is easier than spending other people’s money!

  • forgotten_man

    I think another aspect of this foreign aid has not been addressed.

    Since the government is , and has for pretty much forever , been run as a deficit, then this £13b is all borrowed.

    So after 10 years it is £130b plus compound interest, so I’m guessing heading for £13b interest on top…but that is hidden into the general interest payments on the national debt and forgotten, each year they will then trot out another £13b in aid, and hide the £13b interest (and rising) .

    In 20 years we will be looking at around £1/3 trillion in debt and £100 b -ish in interest payments SOLELY ON OUR FOREIGN AID!!
    My numbers may not be bang on but the compound interest is real enough.

    • HansMartinMezger

      Exactly, and this means that we are borrowing FROM at least some of the countries that we are then giving handouts to.

    • John Birch

      I addressed this problem as soon as comments could be posted. It’s madness to borrow money to give away.

  • The Department for International Development has been thoroughly incompetent over the airport in St Helena. But all Departments of State have their incompetences. We do not therefore call for them to be abolished. It would appear that Priti Patel no longer wants her own entire Department to be abolished. But she still needs watching. The way to save the absolutely vital 0.7 per cent overseas aid target is to police where the money goes.

    We give aid to China, which has landed a rocket on the Moon. We also fund India’s foreign aid budget precisely. As a result, India has the money for a mission to Mars. That’s right. Mars. We are paying towards Nigeria’s active aspiration to launch a rocket into space by 2028.

    The Statute Law should specify that the United Kingdom’s aid to any given country be reduced by the exact cost of any space programme, or of any nuclear weapons programme, or of any nuclear submarine programme, or of any foreign aid budget of that country’s own. The money thus saved would, however, have to remain within the budget of the Department for International Development.

    With her Nigerian background, the highly capable Kate Osamor is ideally placed to make the case for this change.

  • Andy

    The Aid budget could and should be slashed to between £3 and £5 billion a year. That would do well enough.

    • John Birch

      £3 to £5 would be more than enough

  • david

    The Aid budget should be cut by 100%. Aid for disasters should be increased and aid if required can be considered on a case by case basis. All aid should be predicated on buying goods were needed from the UK then the Commonwealth. The department handling the aid should be shut down ASAP and the task carried out by another division most likely the MOD with the costs to be born out of the ‘aid budget’ not out of any extra funding.

  • deepeekay

    because we are w……!