The Foreign Aid Budget

May 17, 2017 | Articles, Assembly Business | 0 comments

Plenary Wednesday 17 May 2017


Spoken Contribution – 18:29:40
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In 1964, a Labour Government under Harold Wilson was elected. It was a Government that immediately made departmental changes with five new Government ministries being set up. One of them, interestingly, was the Welsh Office. Another more pertinent to today’s debate was the Ministry of Overseas Development, headed by Barbara Castle. That was perhaps the start of the overseas aid industry. Now, in 2015, another newspaper—not the ‘Daily Mail’; it may not be any more well regarded by the people to the right of me, but it’s ‘The Times’—began a series of investigative pieces covering the subject of overseas aid. That newspaper has continued to closely monitor this sector since then. When ‘The Times’ began to explore this issue, the newspaper received an interesting letter from Gordon Bridger. He was the director of economics at the Ministry of Overseas Development when it was set up in 1964. Gordon Bridger pointed out that there were different types of overseas aid, one of which is budgetary aid. This is aid given directly by one Government to another Government, and this is what Gordon Bridger had to say about budgetary aid—by the way he was referring to a recent piece that had appeared in a newspaper in which it was alleged that British aid was bankrolling a legion of Ghanaian civil servants who didn’t actually exist.

Now, Gordon Bridger said: ‘The massive misuse of European and British budgetary aid in Ghana recently reported is no surprise, since almost all UK financial aid now takes that form. The Department for International Development is now giving almost £300 million a year to Ethiopia, and many millions to Nigeria, Pakistan, Kenya and numerous others. It is impossible, indeed dangerous, to audit budgetary aid. An assassination attempt on Malawi’s former budget director occurred last year after he planned to reveal Government corruption. There have also been huge scandals over the way the way the Governments of Uganda, Mozambique, Kenya, Rwanda and Nepal have misused this type of aid, and if anyone thinks that the £268 million going to Pakistan reaches poor people, they must be very naive. The DfID is being taken to court over claims about misuse of aid in Ethiopia, and it has been condemned by Amnesty International. Barbara Castle, who in 1964 was put in charge of the newly formed Ministry of Overseas Development, for which I worked as director of economics, instructed us to phase out budgetary aid as it undermined local effort, got diverted and was impossible to audit—[Interruption.] Certainly.

Spoken Contribution – 18:33:04
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Do you also agree with the spending on consultants, though, which has doubled to more than £1 billion a year since 2012—[Interruption]—benefits experts, right. Benefitting many expert companies in accountancy, like PricewaterhouseCoopers, who are not particularly known for their ethical practices, but if you want to carry on giving these—[Interruption].