If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 15 January 2010

Common sense, at last

The Conservatives plan to divert money from the international aid account to establish a 'stabilisation and reconstruction force'. Report here.

Money intended for international aid would be used for a new military “stabilisation” force under a Conservative government, the party said today. The Conservatives made clear they would strengthen the Foreign Office at the expense of the Department for International Development (Dfid) as they set out their national security plans.

Good for them. We have been pouring millions of pounds into foreign aid for decades now, and we haven't seen poverty reduced at all. This is obviously a very inefficient way of getting the results you desire. Some is syphoned off by corrupt leaders for their own purposes, and the rest would seem to be of the 'give a man a fish' variety. The aid industry is a huge and unwieldy thing, stretching as it does from Bono and that scruffy Irish twat to dictators with suspiciously new Mercedes, and the time has come to rethink the whole shebang. I have no objection to helping countries climb out of poverty. Far from it. But the current way of throwing money at the problem (and, when it manifestly fails to have an effect, assume the amount was too little and throw some more) is clearly not working. This is fresh thinking, and much to be welcomed.

The aid industry is complaining, predictably.

David Mepham, Save the Children's Director of Policy said: "There is an urgent need for the Conservatives to clarify that the purpose of development aid is poverty reduction, not subsidizing military operations.

But it's not reducing poverty, is it? And perhaps a military force is necessary to provide the stable conditions in which some good can be done. Calling it 'military operations' makes it sound like we are going to war with them. We are not. Nice try, David.

Kirsty Hughes, Oxfam Head of Policy, said: “Removing aid from the poorest people and using it for military goals rather than tackling poverty would be a big step backwards and would undermine the UK’s leadership role on international development.”

Again, 'military goals'. Guaranteed to raise the hackles of any decent leftie or peacenik, but nowhere in the Conservative statement is there anything about 'military goals'. It's a stabilisation and reconstruction force. The kind of thing we should have thought about before going into Iraq with both feet. The kind of thing that would do a world of good to the poor blighters in Haiti at the moment.

All this, of course, at a time when UK Plc is broke. You don't take out an overdraft to make a charitable donation. That's not what charity is about. This is a bit of sensible thinking, and if the Cameroons are going to be coming up with ideas like this over the next few months, I think they will find people very receptive.

Apart from those whose salaries depend on wasteful largesse towards dictators, of course.

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