Elements of the media (Mail) have the government’s aid budget in their sights (though not all see Telegraph here). Why at a time of reducing government spending should we ring fence International Aid?
The answer is we should do it because it is the right thing to do and, in addition, it is Britain’s national interest. Given the extent of world poverty we can, with relatively small sums of money, make a difference to primary health care, access to clean water, basic education and encouraging sustainable enterprise, which enable people to live with dignity.
There is the argument that encouraging individuals to give to charities who specialise in this is the best way to accomplish these things and the bureaucracy that accompanies Government involvement only dilutes the effectiveness of such programs. All of which is true, but is only part of the issue because there are situations where government support and intervention are able to achieve things that NGO’s and smaller charities are unable to do.
But as part of the G8 summit David Cameron also pointed (sky news here) to why it is in Britain’s national interest and how early support can prevent larger scale problems developing. To which I want to add that it can do us no harm to be a country that keeps to its international commitments.
Of course the issue is not simply about the size of the budget but how it is spent; ensuring the money is used to directly benefit the poorest people, avoiding long term dependency and facilitating long term development. But these questions shouldn't stop us from seeking to be a country which embodies generosity.
Which brings me to politics. Some Conservative MP’s appear to disagree with this analysis and want to see the aid budget reduced. So, if your local MP is a Conservative contact them and tell them what you think. Alternatively why not contact the Prime Minister (here) and make your views known.