After weeks of onslaught against our international aid I think I have just about heard it all. One of the few accurate statements is that we are the world’s second largest donor. Yes we are, and in a world with such evident humanitarian need, I think that is a rank of which we should be proud.
They claim we overspent last year by 0.01% of our national income and that it should be paid back. I am not quite sure how we get it back from hungry children in South Sudan, but that can wait, because it is far too soon to tell. Final statistics are not yet available and all we currently have are estimates. Last year at this stage a similar overspend was estimated, and the year before a bigger one. In the end it was found that we spent exactly the right amount.
They claim that the expenditure is unscrutinised. It isn’t. It’s subject to thorough scrutiny by two parliamentary committees; the Independent Commission on Aid Impact, and the National Audit office. The public can scrutinise it for themselves using the Aid Tracker tool on our website. We are up at the top of the league for transparency.
They claim we rush money out of the door with reckless abandon as the year-end approaches. We don’t. The reality is that large scheduled payments including our contributions to the World Bank and other institutions fall due at that time of year.
They claim we lavish payments on private contractors. We don’t. We drive a hard bargain to get value for money in highly competitive processes, and we have won CIPS awards – the independent organisation for procurement professionals.
The say we are paying Palestinian terrorists: Absolutely untrue. That we built a new palace for the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah: Complete rubbish.
They say we built a shiny new HQ for the Centre for Global Development in the USA. Actually, we paid for some important health research.
They say that we paid for BBC Somalia to broadcast messages encouraging migration. On the contrary, the message was about the perils of doing so.
I could go on, but you get the gist of it.
We spend 0.7% of our national income on international aid, which means that, as the 5th richest country in the world, we have 99.3% of our income for ourselves. What really upsets some people that they believe that ‘charity begins at home’. Their fundamental error is thinking of it as charity. It isn’t. It is an investment. It is spent in our national interest in order that we can live in a safer, more stable, and more prosperous world. We spend it for our benefit. The huge numbers of migrants fleeing poverty, violence, and injustice should bring home to anyone the truth that, unless we invest to deal with their problems at source, those problems are coming in our direction.
As for being one of the largest donors, the UK always takes the lead, it’s what we do. Others follow. Remember that when voting on 23rd June!