PoliticsUK - 2001

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"With the government publishing plans on foreign aid, are you confident the extra money being spent is being spent well?"

Closes 30 May 23:59
International Aid is our moral duty as a more economically developed nation, it is absolutely right that we should not only continue spending what we do but we should extend that to at least 0.7% of GDP and preferably more. The aid we give out now will be paid back to us many many times over when we consider more economically developed nations trade more, our aid budget is literally growing us trade partners and allies for the future. I am supremely confident that our foreign aid isn't just being spent well, but is actively in the United Kingdom's long term interests as a nation too.
Uk aid alleviates suffering in some of the most desperate, poor and war torn countries in the world. It sends children to school and delivers life saving vaccination. It helps to tackle the root causes of global problems such as disease, migration, terrorism and conflict, which matter to us her in the UK. Foreign aid is helping people in some of the most benighted countries in the world whilst also helping our security and stability back home in Britain. Our International Development spending is also in our long-term economic interests. By generating employment, fostering trade, developing markets and increasing people’s ability to earn a living, UK aid provides enormous opportunities for sustainable economic growth. We have seen developing countries become emerging economies, and emerging economies become the engines of future growth and prosperity. Where the UK’s development assistance has played a role in this process, we build strong links and create powerful trading partners for the future. We should welcome Foreign Aid and the moral authority it brings in a world where leadership to address the big issues of our time is desperately needed. But we should also recognise that this is a crucial investment in our own future, bringing greater security and prosperity for our children and grandchildren. It is not just aid from Britain, it is aid for Britain’s benefit too.
Our generous foreign aid programme symbolises the best of Britain - a global Britain, pitching in alongside our allies to alleviate the great problems of our age: terrorism, global poverty, conflict and preventable diseases. The new International Development & Cooperation Bill places an emphasis on our aid being used to deal with global poverty. Developing nations cannot thrive whilst they are behest to the jackboot of poverty. If we tackle poverty, we tackle terrorism - terrorism thrives in poverty, it dies in wealth. If we tackle poverty, we allow countries to develop economically - thus allowing them to invest in healthcare and educations. Foreign Aid isn't a waste of money - it is an investment in the future, it is an investment in the world, it is an investment in the UK. The United Kingdom will not stop giving aid to countries in need, we will not turn our backs on the world, but we also will not allow our foreign aid to be used by governments for anything else other than economic and social development. We will be announcing in the next few months how we will measure effectiveness and what we can do to ensure that taxpayers money is being used soundly.
I believe countries like ours in the developed world have a lasting duty to those at the very bottom of our global society. It is morally impetitive to assert that people - irrespective of their race, colour, or nationality - have those fundamental human rights that absolutely every human being deserves and is entitled to. Someone once said that a nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. I'd go further. A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats and helps the world's weakest and most deprived people - this is why we're a great nation and this is who we are at our best.

Agnes Hamstead

More transparency is never a bad thing. That is why, moments ago, I moved a simple amendment to the government's international aid legislation that calls for the Secretary of State to table a report once a year, detailing where funds are being spent, on what, how much and the status of those projects. It is vital that taxpayers are confident in their decision-makers to be good stewards of the public purse, particularly when it comes to help with overseas development, and our sensible amendment will help ensure just that.
It is entirely right that the Government plan to publish regular updates on Britain's aid budget and the bill they've put forward would also allow for other Government agencies to make agreements abroad without always needing to rely on potentially unscrupulous foreign governments. The Government's plan seeks to refocus British aid programs on reducing global poverty and improve sustainable development. Yes, it's important that the taxpayer knows what he's paying but much more vital is that he knows how he's helping. I would also like to see environment agencies given the same authority which would allow Britain's aid to do what it really should be focusing on; natural disasters and poverty reduction. I hope the Government agree to those progressive changes.
Foreign aid is only as good as it is effective, and I for one question the effectiveness as the government's foreign aid scheme. Often, the money which is used for good is a mere portion of what is allocated, the rest being used either to pay an ever-expanding bureaucracy to "oversee" the project, or to fund government projects in foreign lands which do not directly contribute to the well-being of the people there. This is in addition to the fact that there is still rampant poverty and suffering among the people here in Britain. Until we have alleviated poverty in our own land, it is a dereliction of duty to finance poverty-alleviation measures in other countries. Foreign aid is not only an ineffective means of helping those who need it, but it is also a distraction from government's real task: to protect, defend, and care for the people of this country.

The sad reality is that foreign aid is often negatively correlated with economic growth in developing countries. In 1971, approximately 5% of Africa's GDP was received in the form of foreign aid, and its per capita GDP growth was somewhere around 2%; contrast that to 1995, when foreign aid as a share of Africa's GDP was at a staggering 17% and their per capita GDP growth was below 0%. At a time when foreign aid was at its highest Africa's economy was shrinking, not growing. It turns out that when we send money to foreign nations, it is not received as a stop-gap measure to feed the mouths which need feeding while they work toward sustainable economic growth; it is used as a replacement for growth, and often with disastrous effects. British people deserve to know that the tax dollars which are being used to support foreign governments are effective in combating poverty and that those whom we are helping are really trying to help themselves.

Alice Robertson

Over 4.5 billion people live on less than $1 a day, 880 million people cannot read a word in their own language, 5 million kids die before they are one month old, and half a million mothers die during child birth: our aid budget is helping people live in prosperity, become educated, live a happy childhood, and see your family grow. So yes, it is being spent well.
The Africa example is a good one. However, far apart from what the Tory backbench seem to have convinced themselves, the rise in aid spending in Africa is a good thing. When growth and economic hardship set in, because Africa is weakened by the all-consuming power of Western corporate greed, putting in a strong support network of international allies helps to alleviate poverty and reduce death rates; both of which on average have fallen in Africa since 1971. The fact is aid spending has not staggered Africa's economy as the Tories suggest, aid spending has had to increase because their beloved divine free market has left Africa to rot. Britain's aid programme is essential to ensuring that poverty around the world is eradicated and no amount of squawking about growth figures is going to have the same impact that an aid delivery of food, medicine and clean water could have.
The Conservative Party is thrilled that Labour has accepted our proposed amendment on the Foreign Aid Bill to open up the policy of foreign aid and make the process more transparent and accountable to the public. It is important that we support our brother and sister countries across the world and the commonwealth and give hope to their people, many of whom only a few generations ago would have been citizens of the United Kingdom. It is not unfair or wrong to have reservations about this policy as there are many areas in which it can fail those who it is trying to help, but now the British public will be able to see when it succeeds or fails it is important we back attempts to give hope to those who have none.
I am pleased that the bill on foreign aid was successfully amended by our Conservative MPs in the House of Commons today; transparency in foreign aid has been sorely lacking since its invention in the seventies and now I believe that the British public will be able to better see the results of their tax money being sent abroad. Thus, if foreign aid fails to achieve the promised results, which I believe it will, the British public shall at least be able to hold government to account for its failures in policy. For this reason alone, the bill is worth commending and supporting.
Tory backbencher Albion Stonewood says "it is a dereliction of duty to finance poverty-alleviation measures in other countries", while his leader argues that "it is important that we support our brother and sister countries across the world and the commonwealth and give hope to their people". Is this the Conservative party claiming they are ready to govern? If they contradict each other in opposition, how can they lead a nation in government?
The Conservative party remains in one mind about the international relations bill with our collective interest being how best we can support those in other countries less fortunate than ourselves. Irrespective of belief over how successful the government's policy may or may not be we remain united behind the idea that the British people must be able to see the results so that a conservative Government can judge the policy's success. We hope for this policy's success, but are not willing to hedge all bets on it alone - and will seek reform to the system should it fail for the benefit of those using it and the British people's financial interest. There is no inconsistency here.
Development aid certainly has the most noble of goals and I do not harbour doubts that the Government has the most noble of intentions in declaring that the alleviation of poverty will be the primary focus of their development aid. I do, however, question if this declaration is enough. Simply handing out British money across the world is not going to bring about change in foreign nations - it will not lead to long term alleviation of poverty. In providing aid, the Government must commit to ensuring that recipient nations are going to make the requisite changes to their economic and social systems, such as to ensure that reductions in poverty can be maintained and economies opened to investment that will give British aid a multiplier effect. Without reforming systems that drive endemic poverty, foreign aid will merely be an exercise in throwing our money at a problem and hoping it goes away - a strategy that never works. Declaring that our aid will be used to fight poverty is a step, but to declare that this is a radical solution to improve how aid is delivered and that it will have a dramatic impact on the developing world is a step too far.
I find the Conservatives to be completely ignorant to what the Government has said with regards to reforming Foreign Aid. The Government has already said that we are going to be getting tougher on Foreign Aid. We will not be reducing the Foreign Aid budget, but we will be conducting a review on how recipient nations of our foreign aid is spending our money, and if it is not to our satisfaction, then those nations could lose that aid completely. We are also going to be announcing measures which require nations to meet certain benchmarks in terms of human, economic and social development in order to receive aid. I intend to make a statement on these very issues to explain this in more depth in due course.
Unfortunately the Foreign Secretary fails to comprehend my critiques in full. Yes - we should certainly review how money is being spent and I look forward to her official statement on the matter. Every foreign aid project needs a clearly defined budget, goal, and set of benchmarks that will determine whether that project is on track to meet those goals or has met those goals. That is simply good management.

My critique, however, was a critique of the idea that our foreign aid budget can solve all ills. It can not. Aid must be coupled with meaningful political, social, and economic reforms in host nations that will improve its effectiveness. If we want to fund a microloan programme in Bangladesh, that's wonderful. However, if the governmentdoes not help facilitate the economic and regulatory environment for the businesses founded by that program to succeed and they simply fail once British aid money no longer materialises, what good have we done? We created a dependency on aid that did not lead to a meaningful, long-term alleviation of poverty. Foreign aid alone will never eliminate poverty - and aid strategy must focus on meaningful, structural reforms that promote enterprise and development. That is why the Government must commit not only to increasing foreign aid funding, but must commit to developing aid packages through joint efforts with the World Bank and IMF that fund the structural reforms necessary to promote long-term poverty alleviation.
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