Guest article by Benjamin Sanders
One could be forgiven for thinking that, with the election of a ‘Conservative’ Prime Minister back in 2010, he might have brought an end to the corrupt and inflated foreign aid budget. Of course in reality the opposite happened. Prime Minister David Cameron not only increased the budget, but enshrined the budget’s size into legislation. This meant that the foreign aid budget was the only ring fenced area of spending which could not be cut during his austerity drive.
In other words, people in foreign countries were being given the same amount of money or more, whilst British citizens were forced to endure cuts, with those same British citizens paying for the ring fenced money going abroad. This level of absurdity is ridiculous, though sadly not very surprising in the modern age. For every £10 raised in taxes, 7p went abroad. This may not seem like a lot, but it added up to £13 billion annually – an extraordinary sum by anybody’s standards.
Now fast forward to 2018 where another ‘Conservative’ Prime Minister, Theresa May, has been in office for just over 2 years. Her handling of everything from immigration to the Brexit negotiations has been a farce – and her foreign aid spending is not much better.
The top recipient of British foreign aid, as of 2017, was nuclear armed Pakistan, which received £463 million. The second largest economy in the world, China, received £46.9 million, with sharia loving Iran getting £792,000. Ethiopia was given £334 million, Nigeria £320 million and Sierra Leone £154 million.
In many ways though, the justifications and reasons given for spending the foreign aid are even more bizarre than the spending itself. I actually laughed out loud when scanning through the budget figures and their associated text. In Tanzania for example, Britain is spending money funding samba, aerobatics, juggling and trapeze lessons. In India, Britain is funding a project which seeks to investigate whether yoga can help reduce the rate of heart attacks. Whilst in China, we are funding research into the amount of salt used in school dinners, research which is already carried out to a high standard in the UK.
What is even more surprising is that aid charities like Oxfam, Save the Children and Christian Aid are also regularly funded by the taxpayer. Although their internet and television advertisements repeatedly claim that ‘we rely on donations from the public’, this is not completely true at all. Many of these taxpayer funded charities have also recently been accused of covering up abuse by their staff, in disaster zones such as Haiti and the Central African Republic.
A report by the Institute of Economic Affairs, published in 2014, detailed how the British government was funding these charities; and how those charities then went on to lobby the government for more foreign aid to be spent. It was an endless cycle of the government giving money, and then the charities asking for more – with the British taxpayer not given a say either way.
The report also suggested that the government used the foreign aid budget to fund these charities as a kind of bribe. In return for the funding, the charities would voice their support for government policy in certain areas – such as in ‘big society’ voluntary projects and ring fencing the foreign aid budget.
Although the issue of foreign aid has taken a back seat in recent years, it is still an important issue and one that desperately needs more attention. The longer this issue is swept under the carpet, the more of a problem it will become. The British taxpayer deserves better value for money.