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The Pope reopens the international aid debate

3 February 2011

Spare a dime for a travelling Ponfiff? The Department for International Development can
– and then some. According to their latest accounts, they funnelled
£1.85 million of cash across to the Foreign Office to help pay for the Pope’s visit to Britain last September. The money didn’t specifically come out of their ring-fenced aid budget, but it
would normally have gone towards DfID operations overseas. "Somewhat surprising," is how one member of the international development select committee has put it.

Whatever your take on the Pope’s visit, this is still a story which reopens the wider debate about development spending. For many people, I’d imagine, it doesn’t make sense for the British
government to be pushing ahead with overseas handouts when we are enduring cuts and tax hikes back home – and that goes doubly so when the money appears to be misdirected. Yet, for the
coalition, foreign aid remains a priority. In his Spending Review statement, George Osborne emphasised that, "this Coalition
Government will be the first British government in history, and the first major country in the world, to honour the [0.7% GDP] commitment on international aid." If we transpose his words into
graph form:

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But what about other countries? Sadly, the latest statistics only cover up until 2009 – but that’s enough to reveal some of the main trends. First up, Osborne was being unfair to a cohort of
Scandinavian countries, as well as to Holland, when he said we will be the first "major country" to hit the 0.7 per cent aid target – they managed it a couple of years ago. Whereas
countries such as the US, Japan, Germany and Australia are still some distance from it:

If we compare that to what each country spent in 2008, we had the third biggest real terms increase in aid spending. Many other countries were already cutting:

Speak to coalitioneers, and some boast that we are now among only a handful of major countries to be increasing aid spending in real terms. The question is whether that is something we should be
proud of, or whether it is an act of government folly. Today’s news about the Papal visit – even if those funds weren’t directly from the aid budget – will do nothing to strengthen the
former case.

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Show comments
  • JohnBUK

    And so we see the problem of taxpayers’ money being used for “charitable” purposes. Some think the Pope’s visit was fine and others didn’t. Rather like the funding the BBC – let those who want to, fund it and those who don’t, spend it on other things.

  • yank

    Mr. Hoskin,

    The wets I reference are any of those trumpeting an increase in coerced “aid” while simultaneously pushing some “Big Society” nonsense. It’s indicative of a systemic incoherency that just screams out at us.

    There are many things that firmly identify your current government as unserious and rudderless. This is just one more.

  • strapworld

    Frank P. That has got to be the oldest joke. You must get better material.

    TrevorsDen your last sentence supports entirely my point. Having done quite a bit of research on the monies that have gone ‘astray’ I think I am in a stronger position than yours. Shooting from the hip works sometimes. But not everytime you write something.

  • Cockney Sparrow

    @ strapworld. again i agree with the main thrust of what you say

    @ tomdickand harry. i agree with your points regarding the pope’s visit.

    isnt 1% of luxembourg gdp about 8 pence?

  • Frank P

    Who’s that old guy in the dress with David Cameron?

  • inigojones

    The pope’s visit was generally welcomed, and a better use of ‘aid’ money than lots I can think of. Personally, I would be happy to see the whole Overseas Aid budget paid over to the Red Cross for them to administer as emergency/famine relief [with allowance for whistle~blowers in case of any corruption] Incidentally, where are the campaigns for aid to the homeless in Australia ? Or are our ‘kith and kin’ not entitled to any?

  • Andrew

    Some valid points from everyone. Personally I was pleased that the pope came here. And whilst i recognise the importance of international aid as well as campaign for it, our home is far from a perfect example. Yes we need our house put in order too. We have people in relative poverty, I’m one of them. As a catholic myself and a me
    Ber of the SVP I volunteer to help reduce poverty relief. Despite struggling on a £8pw food budget. Yet I accept other people in the world are far worse off than me, hence I don’t accept help myself rather resources be directed to third world. It would be nice if greedy capitalists would do the same without seeing what profits in it for them first.
    And I agree with the sentiment of being tired of politically correct secular societies attacks on both Christianity and Islam. Why? Because biblically under genesis god gave plants, air, water (in other words earths bounty) to all mankind from which to benefit. Not just a few greedy corporations that under capitalistic greed seek to own control and profit from ownership of these resources.
    If popes visit makes people uncomfortable maybe they should question their ethics.

  • yank

    No, young lad, the non-coerced US aid I’m referencing has nothing to do with governments, but as expected, you wets don’t understand what and why it exists.

    Carry on.

  • tomdickandharry

    0.7% of GDP really isn’t that much… especially when we’ve just had negative GDP ‘growth’.

    Strapworld – as one of your ‘fellow countryman’ I can assure you that the Pope’s visit brought me no happiness whatsoever. In fact it made me sad that a man who covers up paedophilia in his organisation, allowing a priest to continue abusing children, wasn’t arrested and extradited…

    … unlike Abu Hamza (the hooked one).

  • David Lindsay

    So, DfID contributed to the cost of the Papal Visit? Not much to make up for aborting the non-white out of existence on a global scale, but better than nothing.

    However, if the money can be found for this, then why not for the airport on Saint Helena? How is that even DfID’s bag? Saint Helena and her people are British.

  • Peter From Maidstone

    I am also very glad that the money went to help organise the visit of the Pope of Rome, and I was glad to attend Westminster Abbey. I would be very happy if the aid budget were very severely cut or entirely abolished. I am tired of anti-Catholic and anti-Christian arguments such as some papers and leftist commentators are trying to generate after signalling failing to spoil the Pope’s visit as they attempted.

  • TrevorsDen

    Strapworld – … we actually live in the world and we have to relate to it.
    It is not in our interest to
    a – let the world go to hell in a handcart
    b – sit back and let other countries step in and steal our markets with their aid.

    Waste and corruption is a different matter.

  • TrevorsDen

    Like US aid to Egypt? Mmmm…Mr Yank?

    ‘Aid’ freely given to Israel is like ‘aid’ to Egypt mostly military. I am not particularly objecting to this, just recognising it for what it is.

    As I understand policy the point now of foreign aid is to act as an adjunct to foreign policy, so we will be seeing more aid to Afghanistan – we must hope that results in all our military deaths being more worthwhile as opposed top mostly pointless under Labour.

    The Popes visit had to be paid by somebody. The aid dept should be subsumed by the FO anyway.

  • strapworld

    I am of the opinion that charity begins at home. I am sick and tired of overseas aid money going directly into bank accounts of despots overseas. The stories- and evidence- of such things are legion.

    Money going to India and China as well it is simply ridiculous.

    I am not a catholic. But I am a christian and proud of that fact. This is public money, commentators love to compartmentalise these things but in the final analysis it is all public money whatever we are talking about.

    How much public money have we wasted/lost on
    Muslim clerics within this country spouting their hatred. (I am talking about the hooked one and others)?

    If this had been for a different faith leader, would this be an argument?

    The Pope’s visit was highly successful and broiught much happiness to many of my fellow countrymen and women.

    So I say, Money well spent, for once.

    It is about time that we started speaking up for ourselves.

  • Pete Hoskin

    yank: as it happens, I’ve got a graph of international charitable giving that I was tempted to wheel out for this post – but I thought it might be a graph too far. Besides, I was concentrating on state aid above, as the post makes clear.

    You’re right: as least in cash amounts, the US people give far more charitable aid than any other country. And that’s something to celebrate – as it charitable aid more generally – as it undermines the idea that the state needs to do our giving for us.

    I’m sceptical about increasing the British aid budget, which I thought would come through from the above – although it might be clearer in other posts I’ve written. So I hope you’re not numbering me among those “wets”!

  • yank

    No, the US aid budget absolutely dwarfs what you’re trumpeting.

    It’s just freely given for noble cause, and not coerced and given over to troughers, as you wets seem to prefer.

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