Monday, 22 July 2019

Our aid money diverted to prop up Fox's failing Department

That was my first reaction when I saw this story. The BBC reports:

The Department for International Trade is to be given part of the official £14bn aid budget. It will spend the funds on helping developing countries learn from UK expertise on trade deals and attracting foreign investment. The move will see Liam Fox's department spending funds earmarked as Official Development Assistance. The funds will still count towards the government's target of spending 0.7% of national income on overseas aid.

It seems to me that money that could be spent directly on people suffering from poverty and disease in third-world nations is being diverted to men in suits who will give "advice". Such advice has in the past enabled corrupt governments to use tax havens to deny their nations revenue to support public services.

The media release speaks of "UK expertise on trade deals". As I understand it, Dr Fox's Department is still learning, having had to recruit an outside expert and train up many civil servants as a result of losing access to the real expertise in Brussels. As for attracting foreign investment, surely that is the province of CDC or Actis, neither of which now need taxpayer funds?

The suspicion still remains that this a bit of Treasury sleight-of-hand to divert overseas aid money into helping to offset the cost of a troubled Department. There will also be the temptation to use part of it as a slush fund to pay "commission" in order to secure trade agreements. But even if my cynicism is ill-founded (and I hope it is), this diversion of funds is a long way from the original intention of earmarking 0.7% for helping people on the ground.

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