As you will know, Andrew Mitchell has been taking up many of the front pages for most of the past few weeks for his alleged ‘pleb’ comment. What struck me as strange was the amount of praise that Mitchell received after his dismissal as ‘one of the best Secretary’s of State for International Development’… Well, naturally, I wanted to find out how true that actually is.
Mitchell travelled to countries in need of aid. He visited Pakistan during the floods in 2010 and returned the following year. He also visited Haiti, to see the effects of the earthquake, and Somalia and Libya in 2011. He also addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 to press the case for greater support for the developing world, strongly criticised the developed world for failing in its responsibilities towards it, and announced that Britain would double its aid contribution to Pakistan.
In Opposition and Government, Mitchell asserted the need for transparency and value for money in British aid contributions to the developing world, with resources concentrated on the world’s poorest and most troubled countries.
During the 2011 Battle of Tripoli, Mitchell said that the UK had learned from Iraq and had laid the groundwork for a post-Gaddafi Libya. While emphasising that the transition should be Libyan-led, he said that Libya’s allies had outlined steps to ensure a smooth transition. He added, “We have made clear that there should be no revenge attacks,” and, “Libyans have to work together for a new Libya. They should keep in place the sinews of security. The National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi has good informal connections with security officials in Tripoli and has told them: ‘You’ve got a job, please help us keep stability’.” He added that “Divisions between the rebels groups are overstated. The way the National Transitional Council has reached out gives us some confidence.”
Mitchell accepted that a smaller aid budget might have meant fewer cuts elsewhere, but insisted that development projects also helped protect Britain. “Our security is not just provided by soldiers and tanks and fighter jets, it is also provided by training the police in Afghanistan, by building up governance structures in the Middle East and by getting girls into school in the Horn of Africa,” he said, “Those things are all part of what makes us safer.
Let’s look a little closer at what Mitchell actually did, he traveled around at taxpayer expense to countries that had had bad things happen to them so he could look like he cared while staying in nice hotels away from all the dirty poor people at tax payers expense. I’m sure people will instantly reply to me that he was looking how he could aid them. The obvious reply is that throwing money at a problem isn’t aid, taking the specific Haiti example foreign aid has been hugely damaging, not helpful to the disaster struck country:
Aid does not work, it traps people and countries in dependency, Dambisa Moyo in her book Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is Another Way for Africa, argues that ‘Aid has helped make the poor poorer, has made growth slower, has caused life expectancy to stagnate (in some cases regressing back to 1950’s levels), has hurt literacy rates, and has created an atmosphere of dependency at all levels of society’ (Source and very good summary of Moyo’s damming arguments showing how harmful foreign aid can be http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig11/stevo4.1.1.html)
Wikileaks has shown how corrupt the foreign aid process is (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/8304640/WikiLeaks-cables-millions-in-overseas-aid-to-Africa-was-embezzled.html) brought to my attention by Harry Aldridge’s fantastic denouncement of aid on Independence Home http://www.indhome.com/2011/02/cut-international-aid/
In one of the worst cases, £1.2million given to Sierra Leone by the Department for International Development (DfID) to “support peacekeeping” was stolen by the country’s “top brass” and spent on plasma television sets, hunting rifles and other consumer items.
Other examples include £16.5million allegedly stolen by ministers in Uganda and £800,000 intended for schools in Kenya stolen by education ministers.
DfID is said to be fully aware of the thefts, but regards the losses as being “within reason”. Details of the embezzlement will reopen the debate over the Government’s decision to increase DfID’s £7.3billion budget at a time of cuts.
In August, 2009, a secret cable from the US embassy in Freetown reported “deep corruption” within Sierra Leone’s defence ministry, “primarily through pocketing of enlisted members’ salaries”.
Mitchell promised to double aid to Pakistan, one of the more corrupt countries, a Nuclear power and one that funds terrorists. No country that can spend enough to acquire Nuclear weapons should be receiving aid from us. It is not our job to assist the poor in other countries so allowing them to splurge on weapons rather than help their citizens.
Mitchell said he wanted to focus heavily on the poorest countries in the world, yet these are the ones that absolutely do not need us to throw money at them. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime, buy that man’s fish and he can build a business that employs many in his village leading to rising prosperity…(ok maybe it isn’t quite as snappy as the original).
For a look at how nightmarish aid has been for America see here
We then go on to Mitchell talking about Libya – the less said about that utter disaster that is the devastating chaos that used to be Libya the better -suffice to say that Mitchell’s promises that the West had learnt about nation building turned out to be the utter rot it sounded like.
Mitchell accepts that aid cuts could have meant less cuts elsewhere, but argues that aid keeps us safe. What actually keeps us safe is policing (cut by half a billion) or the military (cut by £4.1bn). Don’t get me wrong, I approve of cuts (police cuts should be backed up by privatisation) but to say that aid keeps us more safe than policing or our army is bizarre, especially as aid fundamentally fails to do as intended and so really causes more problems, more resentment, more corruption and poverty which in turn makes us less secure, not more.
Andrew Mitchell may have called a policeman a pleb, and he may be fairly obnoxious. But by far the worst thing he has done is condemn much of the world to continued poverty and dependency with his counter productive, and frankly evil, foreign aid program.