Friday, 20 May 2011

International Aid, Benefits, Service Cuts

I have been put in a mind to write something about this after seeing Melanie Philips on BBC's Question Time last night. As ever, she was on her usual form, making statements of certainty backed up by anecdotal evidence. This time, she was absolutely sure that Overseas Aid was not actually doing any good, rather it was only serving to  make matters worse. Her solution to this was simple - stop all overseas aid immediately. 

Now, lets consider things reasonably for a second and give Melanie the benefit of the doubt. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that there may well be some cases where financial aid ends up in the hands of those who will actually use it to cause suffering. No matter what measures we put in place to prevent this, it will happen and it's plainly wrong to suggest it won't. However, if you want to suggest, as Philips did, that this happens as a rule rather than as an exception, then you better have hard evidence to back it up. Philips did not. Some may argue that Philips didn't actually say that it was commonplace but if so, why call for all overseas aid to be stopped? There is some corruption in the Police so should we stop funding the police force altogether? 

I made a joke on Twitter last night that it wouldn't be long before Melanie Philips claimed that those who receive our aid spend it all on Fags & Plasma TV's. This was a reference to the long held belief of many on the right that those who receive aid in our own country - in the form of benefits - somehow misspend it. 

This attitude is not one of concern that people are suffering because of aid and not one of concern that the money could be better spent, it is one of bitterness. It is an attitude borne from resentment at the State giving 'their hard earned tax' to others who haven't 'earned' it. That's not an entirely abhorrent attitude to take, but lets please be honest about it. Instead of trying to make out that you have the best interests of those who receive aid at heart, please frame your argument properly and along the right line so those of us who wish to argue against it, know where you are coming from.

Finally, I want to address the issue of what happens to our tax money if we do. Those who want all aid cut now have to answer what they want the money spent on instead. This will be interesting as that group tend to have been arguing that the program of cuts the government is pursuing is not only needed but not actually affecting front line services and that the only people losing their jobs are those who hold the mythical 'non jobs'. You can't very well argue it can go into Healthcare when you have been supporting massive cuts to that service. You can't say it can go to University fees when you've been arguing it's right that students should pay their own. You can't say that it can go back into the public sector at all when you've been arguing that it is far too big in the first place.

So, now you have all this extra tax money and now that perfectly valid and much needed cuts are being made, where will you spend it? A tax cut maybe? 

When you get down to it, is that what this argument is really all about?

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