The Daily Telegraph has run an article in which Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft, a significant donor to the party, has called upon the Government to revise its international development strategy and to cut the foreign aid budget. He notes that at a time when other budgets are being reduced significantly and public services are being cut at home, there can be no justification for such largesse with taxpayers’ money. Whereas the international development budget stood at £7.8 billion in 2010, it will rise to £11.5 billion by 2015.
Although such an approach may curry favour with political elites overseas, it understandably raises the hackles of many voters at home. Clearly, a radically new approach to overseas aid needs to be adopted in which the budget is cut back to the bare minimum, with aid being limited to emergency assistance in disaster situations; specific tightly controlled projects aimed at reducing the birth rate in recipient states and general advice on establishing good governance, democratic accountability and effective tax systems. Without reducing the birth rate to sustainable levels in those countries whose populations are exploding and tackling the endemic corruption of many states, no amount of money or assistance will make an appreciable positive impact upon the lives of their people. Once governments become truly accountable for the welfare of their own people, they will have to act to improve their lot or face the consequences. As matters stand, many corrupt governing elites find it easier and more convenient to mask their own corruption by blaming their economic woes upon an “exploitative West” or the “former colonial powers”. It is time to stop subscribing to this narrative and to jettison this politically correct version of “the white man’s burden”.