Foreign aid is increasingly used for political ends

Interesting defence of Britain’s foreign aid budget in The Times today (behind the paywall, I’m afraid). Essentially he’s responding to a slew of stories pointing out some of the problems with aid (such as this and this), and makes some pretty sensible points about how many critics don’t realise how little we actually spend on international development.

He also takes on those who criticise the use of aid for political ends, saying that the worst of it ended with the Cold War…

Some states still use aid as a political tool but most of the big aid spenders give for entirely humanitarian reasons and if they are worried about corruption in certain states, they bypass government and attempt to channel their help through civil society and charitable organisations — which is nearly always the best route.

What he fails to point out is that Britain recently reversed direction on this, actually shaking up aid to more closely reflect UK foreign policy and security concerns. (A growing trend since 9/11.) So, for example, Pakistan is on course to become the biggest recipient of British money partly in order to reduce the chances that it is the cradle of the next big terrorist attack on the UK – and also in part to stem the flow of immigrants to our shores. Pragmatic rather than entirely altruistic, I’d say.

That is how the government justified ringfencing aid at a time of cuts – but I’m not sure how much evidence there really is to justify such links anyway.

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