The subject of 'Aid' is always a touchy one. There are many arguments for richer nations supporting projects in poor or developing nations, the chief being that, in so doing, we foster good relations and reduce the forces of envy which translate into terrorism and violence against the 'haves' in the West. One the other hand, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that very little benefit is actually produced for the providers of 'Aid' or for those it is supposed to help. I was reminded rather strongly of this last night as I watched the launch, by India, of a Mars probe.
India is, currently, in receipts of a few hundreds of millions of pounds of Aid money from the UK government. This is supposedly supporting a range of programmes targeting social and poverty relief issues, and it is ceasing next year. Allegedly. Now here is one of the things that bothers me about the handouts - which have been going on since 1947 - and it is this: India has one of the worlds largest 'poverty' problems in the world. It has a huge number of its reported 1 billion inhabitants living in basic conditions, and subsisting on minimal wages, but it is now the possessor of one of the largest Naval Fleets in that region, equipped with nuclear capable submarines, aircraft carriers, and the latest ship borne aircraft and missiles. It is a nuclear power, and it boasts a space programme - but the UK, which is busy slashing its udgets, reducing its Navy to a coastal defence force, and its other armed forces to little more than token units, is giving India 'Aid'.
Nor is this the only example. Pakistan has been a net beneficiary of Aid for all of its existence, yet its a country described as 'failing'. Corruption is rife, poverty is the biggest 'growth industry' and it provides more radical Islamists to wage terror campaigns than Iran which is supposed to be the seat of Islamic fundamentalism. Zimbabwe is another. Billions in Aid went in for years, but the currency collapsed, the people are starving, the infrastructure is collapsing and the only beneficiaries seem to be Mugabe and his thuggish cronies whose Swiss Bank accounts are stuffed with the proceeds. The same seems to be happening in South Africa, where people who, prior to 1994, were drawing benefits in the UK, or street traders, car salesmen and shopkeepers in the Apartheid years are now billionaires while the countries economy struggles, corruption is rampant, poverty increases and the infrastructure can't be maintained. Ther list goes on and on, and the countries pouring this 'Aid' money into these bottomless pits are making cuts to their own budgets to pay for it.
The UK has cut its Defence Budget to ridiculous levels, it can't afford (we are constantly told) to pay pensioners, and threatens to reduce this 'benefit' (which it is not - we all pay for it through our working lives. We've earned it and had the Whitehall parasites invested even a portion of what they've collected they'd be rolling in money) for those now in work - and paying into the funds Whitehall continues to squander. The UK has no space programme, allegedly because 'there is no benefit to be gained from it', but in reality, because they waste the money on other things. But we are funding India's albeit indirectly. The cuts to Defence are now coming home to bite, with the possibility, on the eve of the Scottish Independence Referendum, of the Govan and Scotstoun shipyards, dependent on ship orders for the RN, closing. Nor is Britain alone, these questions are being asked in Germany and several other countries, but it is one the politicians everywhere don't want to answer.
The truth is that 'Aid', well intentioned as it is, allows the recipient politicians to divert funds they would and should have spent on whatever the 'Aid' is targeting, to other projects. In many recipient countries, the corruption is so entrenched, that the Aid might as well be paid directly to the bank accounts (Swiss) of the families of the politicians who have a nice line of contractors who are the sole winners of any contract going. Usually companies run by wives, sons, cousins or other relatives, and the 'product' delivered is often a joke, and not what it was supposed to be. An example that would be hilarious if it wasn't so stupid, was a contract awarded in South Africa to a relative of a Minister to proivde proper toilets in all the 'informal' townships. What the contractor didn't do, was plumb any of them into a sewer, a water supply or anything else. He built concrete slabs, placed a 'throne' on it and moved on. Thousands of them, in every township. No enclosure, no plumbing, no sewerage removal. Mega-millions into bank. Easy.
When one considers the cost of India's Space Programme, the UK's Aid package is quite small beer, but, considering that we didn't even spend a tenth of the amount of Aid we give India, and less than a fraction of a percent of what we hand out in Aid on our joint effort through the European Space Agency, one does have to ask the question; why? Is there any benefit to the UK from this largesse? Is there any benefit to those on the receiving end (excluding of course the corrupt politicians)? From where I stand, the answer is no. We have almost two million unemployed, we have sold off most of our heavy industries (ironically our steel plants and our prestige car manufactuers to Indian owners) and we can't pay our own bills - but we hand out huge amounts that, spent at home, could at least support a great deal of redevelopment in areas that desperately need it.
We can't pay pensioners, we have a crippling unemployment 'benefit' burden, we are slashing government services and selling them off to foreign operators, we have no Space Programme, our Armed Forces are shrinking to the point of non-existence, but we can hand out billions in 'Aid'? There's something very wrong with that picture, but perhaps those responsible are standiong to close to the trees to see it.