(Neil - sorry for making you a guest blogger - without your permission - you raise some very valid points)
Thanks for the honour of the new post.
I work for Save the Children and live in Kenya.
My argument is based on logic backed-up by practical experience and is not just theoretical; I hope to give you some concrete examples to convince you and Anonymous.
Your main points are that there is waste and theft of the UK overseas aid, exemplified by what happens in Kenya, that this has led to a hand-out culture, and that therefore aid should be cut.
Further you go on to say in your recent comments that foreign aid is actually holding back development and never works in Africa.
I described the hand-out culture as a myth and would still challenge you and Anonymous to give one example of it. It would help to define what you mean by it; my understanding of a hand-out culture is people waiting around and dependent on the hand-out?
The reason I am so irritated by examples of this very common myth propagation as it plays to a particular view of developing, and particularly African countries, inhabited by an ignorant and feckless population, unable to stand on their own two feet despite the largesse lavished upon them by the West.
This is not what you mean and therefore you must be talking about a hand-out culture amongst the leaders. I think this cuts to the heart of our disagreement:
Who could deny that there is massive and engrained corruption? But sadly if you look at the recent one trillion shilling budget (over 8 billon UK pounds) the money spent previously by DFID (some millions of pounds) on free primary education is not sufficient for the corrupt leaders to be dependent upon it.
In the early nineties there was an aid freeze in Kenya ostensibly to push for political change, and the economy staggered on; with the politcal change (such as it is) largely coming from popular pressure. The leaders didn't bemoan the lack of opportunity to steal from DFID - just got busy with the genesis of Goldenburg, a scam so large that it dwarfed annual gross domestic product let alone aid budgets.
That may be true without making the theft of money from the primary education budgets OK? I would agree, but would like to point out a couple of things:
UK aid in this instance was based on a "sector" approach, which gives more control to the donor and less opportunity for corruption unlike "budget support" which has been used in Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania, with varying success, so there was an intent to contol the situation; second the flow of money was stopped when the theft became apparent - perhaps not early enough, but in sharp contrast to the cold-war era (to which your father-in-law's acquaintance may have been referring) where strategic considerations routinely outweighed any sense or control; thirdly, and most importantly, millions of Kenyan children who would othewise not have gone to school have done so.
neil said... (con't)
Its my turn to give some anecdotes: the DFID funded programme in South Sudan which has enabled the reestablishment of primary education for the first time in two generations and pioneered ways of ensuring girls go to school too; the water and sanitation work in Liberia, where UK aid has funded a consortium of NGOs with several million pounds to establish very successful water and sanitation projects; thousands of lives saved in northern Nigeria (despite the corruption) through immunisation and mother and child health programmes established using British tax payer money; the UKs support to Sierra Leone which is credited with stopping the hideous civil war, and helping it get back on its feet - even though there is still corruption there too; don't you think that children's lives saved and improved is worth the expense and the political commitment of Clare Short and others?
If you call for a cut in UK aid budgets all these sort of programmes would have to be halted; but actually you would be stopping other things too:
Quite a lot of UK aid goes via the European Union, and whatever you think of that, its humanitarian wing ECHO, finances much of the emergency work of NGOs in war zones and disasters across the world.
Some, as I mention, goes in budget support - and you would withdraw that from Rwanda, where despite increasing worries about its human rights approach, they have pretty much zero tolerance to corruption, and have stabilisd the country since the genocide.
The UN system is also a beneficiary of UK aid - and yes some of it is probably wasted and certainly paid on those high salaries you dislike - but you would be withdrawing support just when Kofi Annan has created a new-found relevance of the UN in both development and peace-building.
You would also be cutting some of the money which goes on micro-finance pojects, vocational training, ecouraging entrepreneurship, establishing youth employment programmes and a whole host of things that you would value more than those I have mentioned above.
Unfortunately you would have to scrap the assistance that DFID is giving to developing countries to help them deal with climate change effects, which let's face it, were not caused by them in the first place and are perpetuating poverty.
Last Friday (11th June) in the Standard editorial section there was a letter from the new UK Secretary of State for International Development re-affirming commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI (from 2013) on overseas aid.
He also writes: "In future, when we give money directly to governments in developing countries, we want to earmark up to five percent of the total amount to help parliaments, civil society and audit bodies to hold to account those who spend their money."
Perhaps you can agree that DFID is the best of a bad bunch if you examine some of the policies and procedures of other donors?
I think that despite the theft and the waste it is prejudiced for you to claim that all aid to Africa is ineffective - you really need to give some evidence of this; to go further and say that aid has impoverished Kenyans is nonsensical. What about the part played by the leaders who do the thieving; what about the geopolitical machinations during the post-independence period? What about the debilitating our-turn-to-eat culture that exist?
The argument of looking at waste and theft and damning the whole system and principles behind it is similar to saying that you are scandalised by the expenses that a lot of MPs have claimed and therefore you would like to get rid of them all and be ruled by an absolute monarch and their descendants; its understandable, certainly populist but why not try a bit of reform first?