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What a time to waste even more of our money on foreign aid


ON April 16 Chancellor Rishi Sunak tweeted that he would be doubling the UK’s existing £2.2billion loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

That he thought it appropriate to announce this at a time when Britain faces an uncertain economic future shows how deaf the government is to criticism of its thoughtless, if not dangerous, foreign aid policy. 

This loan, now £4.4billion, from Her Majesty’s Government to the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust is meant to support the poor and healthcare systems in developing countries. A noble gesture but, to date, it has proved to be a waste of valuable resources. 

Britain’s foreign aid programme, as I have written before, is riddled with disaster, corruption and lack of accountability. Its ineffectiveness as a salve for the world’s ills is well documented; those who should benefit rarely do. The IMF lends at either nil or 0.5 per cent interest, making its loans more of a donation than a business transaction. In 2018 millions was owed to the IMF in arrears, proof enough that its investments have been unsound.

The IMF is mired in worse controversy over its sinking of Western taxpayers’ money into the black hole of foreign aid. Extraordinarily, it is helping to finance China’s Belt and Road initiative, an aggressive form of economic colonialism. Thus it funds a regime which imprisons its own Muslim citizens in concentration camps and a ‘republic’ which through its deceptive behaviour has caused a global pandemic and economic crisis.

The IMF’s lack of accountability extends to its habit of employing inappropriate managing directors. During her tenure, Christine Lagarde was found guilty of negligence for handing over £350million of taxpayers’ money to a controversial French businessman, yet survived unscathed. Her predecessor, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, had to resign after being accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid; other sex scandals followed him like a bad smell. The current managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, another Eurocrat like Lagarde, previously worked at – where else? – the World Bank, EU and UN.

The almost incestuous relationship between these international institutions and their executives, belonging to the world’s most elite managerial club and jumping from one organisation to another, lacks accountability and provides fertile grounds for corruption and protectionism. 

The IMF’s 2018 annual meeting which took place in Bali, a lovely location as seen in a report photo of the tanned Lagarde surrounded by sycophants, epitomises the privileges of high office at the IMF.  

Sunak’s latest gift to the IMF is not the only one to this powerful organisation that the UK taxpayer stumps up for. One collaboration between the Department for International Development (DfID) and the IMF – the ‘Macro Research for Development’ created to advise policy makers in developing countries – ran for eight years using ‘new resources’ to fund researchers and conferences. DfID’s ‘partnering’ with the IMF has its own acronym, SIMF (Supporting the International Monetary Fund) and a budget earmarked for the IMF of a mere £21,740,000. 

There are vast numbers of impoverished and dispossessed people worldwide who need assistance. How much of this foreign aid reaches them? How much supports an elite international gravy train, how much administration and how much foreign despots? Sunak surely has to ask those questions. Or is he so trigger-happy with the billions he’s having to borrow to fund the government’s coronavirus policy that he doesn’t care about a few more?

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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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