I haven’t had much good to say about Bunter Johnson’s government of late, but I did approve of the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament yesterday. In it, he told us that the Department for International Development was seen round the world as a ‘great cash point in the sky’ that handed out money without regard to British interests or values. Quite right too – it is! He then announced that the department would be merged with the Foreign Office to create a new ‘Whitehall super department’ designed to help improve the way this country projects itself abroad. Mr Johnson told MPs: “This will unite our aid with our diplomacy and bring them together in our international effort.”He assured them that work on merging the two departments into the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will begin immediately and is scheduled to be formally completed by September. I had hoped that it would mean that the mandatory target of spending 0.7% of the country’s GDP on overseas aid would be abolished, but we later learned that this will remain in force after the merger.
Predictably, opposition MPs and aid campaigners reacted angrily to the decision.
Labour leader Smoothie Starmer said the announcement was a distraction from how poorly the Government was handling the coronavirus pandemic and he probably has a point there. Bunter and his merry men – and women of course – need something to deflect attention from their coronabug ineptitude. All the same, it seems to me to be a sensible and long overdue move.
Mind you, that other Etonian turnip, Cowardly Cameron, whose coalition government decided on making it part of law that Britain spends 0.7 percent of national income on aid, described the move as a mistake.
He said: “The end of DfID will mean less expertise, less voice for development at the top table and ultimately less respect for the UK overseas.”
I don’t understand that. Does Britain need to gain respect by offering handouts these days? That surely is not respect as such, but what my Mother used to call cupboard love.
However, Bunter J insisted yesterday that the move would ensure Britain spoke with one diplomatic voice around the world and help get better value for money for UK taxpayers. That I do approve of!
I was not too sure about the cash point analogy though. To get cash from those funny little machines that are becoming ever scarcer, one needs to have that money in the bank already – as I know to my cost. So many inept and corrupt governments have come to Britain with their begging bowls rather than their debit cards – and Britain has duly handed out largess without ever checking whether it is used as intended.
Bunter also went back to bluster and boasted that the UK had the third biggest aid budget and diplomatic network in the world.
“We owe it to our people to make best use of these assets, which scarcely any of our peers can match. The British taxpayer has the right to expect that we achieve the maximum value with every pound we spend,”
That sounds more like the prime minister who has been in the headlines for his inane boasting rather than his competence of late. We are back to being ‘world beaters,’ if only at giving our money away.
Bunter told the Commons that with the departmental merger. Britain’s aid spending should be more in line with the country’s diplomatic aims.
“We give as much aid to Zambia as we do to Ukraine, though the latter is vital for European security. We give ten times as much aid to Tanzania as we do to the six countries of the Western Balkans, who are acutely vulnerable to Russian meddling,” he told his somewhat sceptical audience.
It seems that Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab will now have the power to decide which countries receive or cease to receive UK foreign aid under the shakeup. Let’s hope he does better with this new job than he has done so far with the coronabug crisis.
James Roberts, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance campaign group, said: “This shift is good news for taxpayers, but it’s crucial that the end result is less of their money being wasted. Taxpayers must get the maximum possible value for every pound spent. For too long, cash has been thrown away by DfID on ineffective and unjustified projects – money must now go to those most in need, at home and abroad.”
But Daniel Willis, another politically correct snowflake from the aid campaign group, Global Justice Now said: “This is a terrible decision that takes us back two decades to when UK aid was subservient to the interests of British business. It’s bad news for the fight against global poverty, and good news for suppliers of corporate drinks parties in foreign embassies.”
I am afraid I agree with Mr Roberts rather than Mr Willis. The entire scheme has been an embarrassing disgrace so far. Let me give you half a dozen examples of our cash being squandered on crazy schemes.
- Britain handed one hundred and fifty million pounds to aid projects in China in 2018, despite that country having one of the biggest economies in the world.
- A few years ago, a pop group called Yenga, hailed as Ethiopia’s answer to the Spice Girls received four million pounds in UK aid as part of a wider programme, aimed at empowering women in Ethiopia.
- In 2018, the UK pledged nearly one hundred million pounds in aid to India despite the Indian government spending almost the same sum on a lunar probe while millions of its citizens live in abject poverty.
- Britain has also handed one and a half billion pounds in aid to twenty countries that are internationally recognised as the most corrupt regimes in the world – and they include my Zimbabwe.
- One and a half million pounds s of UK aid was spent on eradicating super-sized mice from uninhabited Gough Island in the southern Atlantic Ocean!
And finally, three hundred and twenty six million was spent on operating costs at the Department for International Development in a single year in 2018/19. They must use solid gold paper clips I reckon!
With a huge recession approaching in the not too far distant future, Britain needs to keep her money to herself and forget about trying to be popular. A government’s main priority has to be looking after it’s own people – and boy, they are going to need looking after when the coronabug has moved on.