After the demands in the tabloids, I am surprised that I have had only a couple of emails from constituents telling me that foreign aid expenditure should be diverted to supporting our own flood victims and building better flood defences.
I just do not share the indignation of tabloid leader writers who appear to be incensed by the thought that the UK has been spending money on flood relief in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mozambique and many other countries. The fact of the matter is that we have been spending record amounts on flood defence back in the UK too over the last decade. Clearly, we are going to have to spend more, but as the 5th richest country on the planet I am confident that we are quite capable of finding the necessary expenditure without taking it from our international development budget, which is designed to assist the world’s poorest people.
We spend 0.7 percent of our national income on international development, which means that we can set our other national priorities with the 99.3 percent that is left.
Notwithstanding the severity, and misery of the floods we have experienced we do still need to keep a sense of proportion. In the last great devastating floods to hit Pakistan in 2010, 2000 people drowned and 20 million were driven from their homes – fully 12 percent of the population. An area the size of Italy was devastated with hundreds of billions of pounds worth of damage.
The purpose of our international development expenditure is to increase our own national security by investing to make the world a safer, more secure, and more prosperous place. One way of promoting this is by spending money to ensure that poor countries are more resilient to climate change, the flooding, and the other hazards that it brings. Were we not to do so, and instead to spend 100 percent of our income on ourselves, then we can only expect even greater flows of population as the world’s desperate people seek a better life here.