Monday, 17 February 2014

Why we cannot redirect Foreign Aid to UK flood hit areas

Firstly, I wanted to say I feel for the South of England, I really do. I also have family who live in the some of the flood hit areas and seeing how this is disrupting their lives is awful.

However, what I have also noticed, since the flooding began, are calls to have UK Foreign Aid re-directed to the flood hit people in the South of England. Now, whilst I can understand the frustration at being taken totally unawares by the weather, and the massive effect that this is having on our lives, I cannot, for the life of me understand why anyone would think this is a good idea (let alone a national newspaper start a campaign).

Before we take this argument any further, let me please set out a few statistics, basic facts about our Foreign Aid budget that might help underpin my point.

UK Aid budget: £8.6 bn
Total spend on cigarettes in the UK: £15-18bn
UK Defence spending:£45.6bn
Tax avoidance in the UK c £70bn
Combined wealth of the richest 1000 people in the UK (2012) £414bn
You can look at any spending in isolation and feel it is totally out of proportion, but, before we cut back on helping those in absolute need, remember, that we spend twice as much on smoking, 5 times as much on the military, allow 9 times as much in tax avoidance and our current level of aid could be paid for the next 48 years by just 1000 people.

Also, the 0.07% (really yes, its that small) of GNI that is allocated to Foreign Aid has a caveat, that the ‘aid’ is to be determined by the OECD, this makes it impossible to redirect the money back into a UK ‘pot’ as, we would not be classified as needing aid.

There is then the ‘charity begins at home’ mantra that is trotted out again and again and again. This is a point I do agree wholeheartedly in, however, we do not live in a small isolated commune; we live in a global community. Our neighbours are no longer the Smiths or Jones’ next door who are struggling to keep the water out of their home or the fence panels up in their garden; they are the people in Syria who are having their own governments use chemical weapons on them; They are the families in Africa whose children are dying of completely preventable diseases; who are dying of water borne illness because they lack the basic human necessity of clean water; the girls in the middle east who are being married at ridiculously early, risking their lives; suffering a lifetime of abuse and being denied an education; the people in the far east who have lost everything in massive floods.

We were all born into this country by luck (apparently good or bad, depending which newspaper you read). How can we justify to ourselves, attempting to stop any of the help that goes towards solving any of these problems, just because we have been let down and left very ill prepared for the storms that have ravaged the UK this winter.

There is also the argument that there are people here who are having to stay overnight in community centres and don’t know when they will be able to return home, this is really not comparable with people having to flee their homes with nothing, and not knowing if they will ever even get a tent/something to keep them out of the elements and how long they will have it for; knowing they will never get to return home. Missing the point spectacularly that our gov’t is doing something, you are sheltered, you are fed and you are warm and you will get to go home at some point.

So I guess what I am trying to say is, I understand your frustration and I understand your angst. I know that everyone is feeling the pinch and so giving money to ‘furriners’ whilst we are struggling, may grate at some people, I cannot see how anyone would think  that we are even in a comparable situation. We spend less in a year on fizzy pop than we do on Foreign Aid, and yet we think it will be ok take that away. Yes; your homes are flooded; yes its hard, but for gods sake people are dying; children are dying in completely preventable circumstances every day and if we have now become a nation that values our [insured] property over the lives of other humans, then; for the first time in my life; I truly despair.

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