Coffee House

Justine Greening may be tighter on international aid

8 September 2012

Sending an ex-accountant to run the International Development department was always a bit of a risk, given that its remit – to spend as much as it can – inverts most notions of cost control. Today, the Daily Mail quotes friends of Justine Greening saying that she’ll be taking a long, hard look at just why we send a billion quid in aid to India when it can afford its own space programme, nuclear programme and overseas aid budget. She wants to do more with less, we’re told, just like her colleagues across Cabinet. And this will just be the start. If Greening applies dispassionate logical analysis to DfID she would likely conclude that its budget needs frozen. No10 have said this won’t happen, but the deficit reduction plan is now so off course that it may have to rethink.

As Transport Secretary, Greening will have seen officials run around all day wondering how they’ll cope with the massive cuts. In DfID she’ll have stepped into a parallel universe with her officials in a blind panic, because the Prime Minister wants to pass a law making it illegal for them to spend under £11 billion a year.

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As I argued in the Daily Telegraph recently, the main Millennium Development Goal of of halving the proportion of the world’s population living on a dollar a day by 2015 was met in 2008, seven years ahead of schedule. You’d think that DFID would shout from the rooftops about this remarkable achievement. But it has been treated like an embarrassing secret, perhaps because this miracle had not been created by government aid but by the economic progress of China and India. Buying cheap electronic goods has, in a very real way, made poverty history in vast tracts of the third world. It has nothing to do with Mitchell’s Millions. The co-operation between peoples, not governments, is making the difference. Trade is working miracles, where aid still struggles to make a lasting difference.

The briefings which followed Greening’s ejection from Transport suggest she has never tried very hard to please the Cameroons. The Putney MP didn’t care for their proposed U-turn over Heathrow Airport, and seems to have made this clear. The impeccably-informed Danny Finkelstein said in his column that she got the shove because they saw her as “not the easiest minister to work with”. James Forsyth’s political column in this week’s Spectator shows even sharper criticism:-

There is little sympathy for her in No. 10. ‘She’ll have plenty of time to think about runways,’ one source told me, ‘as her flight to the next developing country circles the airport yet again.’

It is strange to Greening her being briefed against for sticking to her party’s manifesto and her coalition government’s agreement. But this does suggest that she has an independent mind. So how will she feel being asked to play the unusual, landmine-strewn and electorally unpopular game of Mitchell’s Millions? We’ll find out in the next few months.

UPDATE  I had just quoted two briefings against Justine Greening in the above piece. Thanks to Julie for pointing out the below tweets from Sam Coates from The Times – which, I have to say, only raise my opinion of her :-

@SamCoatesTimes Greening has “tantrums” and IDS is “robust”. Tory misogyny is breathtaking.

@SamCoatesTimes Justine Greening didn’t want International Development brief and told No10 she didn’t believe in the budget ringfence

@SamCoatesTimes By the way, I’m told the exact phrases used by Justine Greening to express her scepticism about aid and Dfid were extremely fruity and sharp

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  • terry

    The very first thing Greening should have done when she got there is stood on the steps and said “I resign, and we are abolishing this department”.

  • perdix

    The aid budget target is just that at the moment. The government has declined to put it into law for now.

    • itdoesntaddup

      Like the Equalities Act, a messed up version will be rushed through in the final wash-up session of parliament before the election as a poison pill for the next government.

  • Coffeehousewall

    Does anyone really think she will do anything? Really? There is a whole organisation set up to spend our money, do you think that will just roll over? Let’s say she reduces the Aid budget to £13 billion instead of £14 billion. Is that good? Should we all be pleased?

    The Aid budget will not be eliminated by this Government. It does not matter who is notionally in charge. Indeed I do not normally believe any reports of friction between this minister and that minister. It is all irrelevant to the growing expanse of the state which will use the greed and lust for power of MPs for its own ends, now that it has become a living being of its own.

    There is no point saying what should be done if presently there is no prospect of us being listened to at all. Something else needs to be done. We truly need a political revolution.

  • Gina Dean

    giving aid to countries seems to be the same as benifits in this country people become dependent on it and make no effort to tackle the problem for their selves. Look at how many are still living in camps set up 10 years ago. Still living on hand outs. Its time that we had a rethink and stopped all aid, then maybe the goverments of the countries would have to find away of feeding there own. How is it justified that arms and large army’s can be paid for when people are starving, just to keep corrupt goverments in power. Why should the West keep helping it is not our problem. Even when aid is given it does not mean we get their business.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    With a bit of luck she’ll wreck Cameron’s indulgent delusional lunacy on this. Cameron profligacy must be stopped!

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Overseas aid should be tied to our economic interests. There is no earthly reason why we should support kleptocracies and incompetence. Why do we fund states which despise us, don’t trade with us, vote against us in the UN, or murder us.

    Cameron calls this soft power. The recipients just call it soft.

    Whatever it is it is a calculated insult to the British.

    • Dimoto

      That would be an improvement.
      At the moment it seems to be mainly about some sort of nonsense “soft power” and helping the Douglas Hurd tendency in the government “punch above our weight” in posturing “on the world stage”.
      Sorry for the cliches, but they are not mine.

  • Julie

    The more I hear about Justine Greening, the more I like and admire her. Someone who is not a Cameroon and does not suck up to Cameron and Osborne and is willing to actually challenge them. Comprehensive educated and attended not Oxford or Cambridge but Southampton University. The way they have treated her and briefed about her is a disgrace, is very mysoginstic and sexist. One newspaper quoted her as telling Cameron, she did not agree with increasing and protecting the DfiD budget. If this is true then she goes up further in my estimation. Forget comedy Boris, maybe Greening is a future Leader?

    • Julie

      It was Sam Coates in the Times. Here are the tweets he sent:

      @SamCoatesTimesOne member of the gvt says they considered firing Justine Greening on the spot because of her tantrum on reshuffle day

      @SamCoatesTimes Greening has “tantrums” and IDS is “robust”. Tory misogyny is breathtaking.

      @SamCoatesTimes Justine Greening didn’t want International Development brief and told No10 she didn’t believe in the budget ringfence

      @SamCoatesTimes By the way, I’m told the exact phrases used by Justine Greening to express her scepticism about aid and Dfid were extremely fruity and sharp

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    If Justine Greening manages to assign the International Welfare budget to countries which really need it (ie not India for a start) and better still get it cut, she will deserve to be a contender to replace the useless Cameron.
    In the 1970/80s it took a woman to knock sense into the Conservative Party; perhaps it needs the same in the 2010/20s.

  • Mirtha Tidville

    Get cutting Justine, millions of ordinary people will be delighted..This is something that is urgently needed and sod Dave..,,be brave and electoral success might be possible

  • Steerage

    How about starting with a review of the £90m allocated by DfID to BBC Media Action (formerly the BBC World Service Trust) over the next four years?

    DfID gave examples of previous activity justifying this huge whack of money (which we have to borrow) as: “In Bangladesh, 60
    per cent of people thought the “Question Time” programme had made
    politicians and officials more accountable. In Cambodia, the health programme
    increased the number of people using condoms, the number of women going to
    antenatal checks, and the number of people washing their hands.
    “Lifeline” programmes are reaching people in emergencies with
    information that is critical to their survival. A young woman’s comment on a
    Darfur programme was that “when you listen to this programme you feel that
    it is the only link between you and the outside world”. The existing
    programmes being rolled into the new grant are:

    a) “A National Conversation” focusing on
    governance in Tanzania, Angola and Sierra Leone; b) “Climate Asia” in seven countries across Asia; and c) a health
    programme in India.”

    You couldn’t make such back of an envelope reasons up.
    Oops, someone in the BBC/DfID did, promising to ensure “every penny counts, backed up by real evidence of impact”.
    N.B. It is subject to annual reviews.

  • jebediah

    When you’re in debt you cut the unnecessaries, the gym membership, the big holiday, the big restaurant meals. You don’t ensure this is the only thing that is not cut. Cut the damn foreign aid budget, especially to India.

  • Archimedes

    Just because the aid budget is unpopular does not mean that unceremoniously removing it will be popular. How do you know that Cameron and Osborne are not quite happy for her to kick up a bit of a storm in DfID, so that it becomes popular to cut the budget? They could have sent her to NI, if it was only about getting rid of her. How do the LibDems feel about curtailing aid? It seems like the kind of misguided, and internationally agreed, policy that they would support.

    I see absolutely no reason why George Osborne, desperately trying to find budgets that can be cut, would not want to cut the DfID budget.

    • dalai guevara

      Because it is plain to see that ID funds are not aid, but hidden subsidies to domestic business.

  • Nicholas

    Can the lot Justine and you’ll have the undying gratitude of the majority of people outside the Westminster bubble except probably the fool telemachus.

    • dalai guevara

      Can we stop calling this a i d, please? ID funds are nothing but hidden subsidies of o u r industries to sell more stuff abroad and gain competitve advantage over others.

      Again, the anti-business business fraction are tripping over their own feet…

      • Coffeehousewall

        Does anyone else think that this new character ‘dalai guevara’ is another personality being used by telemachus, who is unusually silent while this poster is very active?

        • dalai guevara

          don’t know who telemach is, honestly – ergo, there must be more than one with a brain 😉

          • Coffeehousewall

            Eddie is another of telemachus’ nom de plumes. Indeed the more you post the more you do certainly sound like telemachus. As for my emergence, I have been here a long time whereas you have just appeared as telemachus disappears, just as Percy disappeared, just as Patriccia Shaw disappeared. All various characters played by telemachus.

            • dalai guevara

              See a shrink, perhaps? Likely diagnosis: persecution mania 😉

      • Nicholas

        Firstly my comment does not even use the term aid so I’m not sure why your plea is addressed to me. Secondly I’m not in any faction. If I were it would be the anti-government (especially socialist government) faction. The so-called business faction is not the problem anyway. It is a complete red herring. The problem is the “big government, quango, fake charity, lucrative tax-funded sinecures for champagne socialists and all members of Common Purpose faction” which government subsidises with our money so it can lobby itself to introduce yet more regulation, red tape and nannying with which to tax us and vex us. It’s a merry-go-round. Very merry if you are on it but not so merry for ordinary folk trying to get by, whether you are a fisherman or a corporate slave.

        • dalai guevara

          It is addressed to you ’cause I just had a big mac and was thinking about you, Ronald. Remember the loud and molesting type your can become when you haven’t eaten properly? I am glad we are past that now and you begin to post some more coherent stuff.

          The problem with our government is indeed lack of direction:

          1- say: they will reduce public sector. Do: grow cabinet to burst their own meeting rooms

          2- say: we dislike ‘sheds with beds’. Do: more of just that by changing planning regs

          3- say: QE to ‘kickstart the economy’. Do: QE to underpin the asset rich.

          4- say: we despise the rioters/ underclass. Do: nothing to reduce the 16h work hurdle and get these people out of poverty

          5- say: we need more housing in a shortage. Do: scrap all affordable housing criteria to make this meaningful for the indigenous market.

          6- say: we want increased airport capacity. Do: delay decision on Heathrow until 2015, which will quite rightly also delay a decision on Boris Island as investors require certainty.

          I could go on with this one – the list is mind-bogglingly long.

          • Nicholas

            My name is not Ronald and I haven’t molested anyone. My last exercising of force against the person was lawful and in in a far off unhappy time.

  • Gouldus

    Let’s make a cut in spending – 11 Billion quid a year to counties that don’t need it. Sorted.

  • Dimoto

    Justine Greening – a competent minister with a backbone, or Soubry, an unproven attention seeker ?
    Seems Cameron will go for option (2) every time.
    Isn’t the Indian aid programme being wound up, or did I dream that ?

  • CraigStrachan

    Brewster had to spend $30 million in order to inherit $300 million. What’s the British taxpayer’s promised return for this spending spree?

    • Boudicca_Icenii

      Nil; nada; nothing. We might just as well have a huge bonfire with the borrowed millions for all the good it will do us – or many of the people in the countries which receive it. The money will go straight into the pockets of corrupt politicians, vested interests and Charity Quangos.

    • Nicholas

      Well, according to Dave’s rather odd logic it prevents more immigrants coming here. Although since he is the PM it speaks volumes about his lack of power/resolve that he can’t seem to stop more immigrants coming here.

  • itdoesntaddup

    Cameron (and Osborne, whose idea this is said to have been) will probably find it backfires on them spectacularly. Greening will be immensely popular if she curtails aid spending: sack her, and she could even be a contender to replace Dave – who after all is not going to remain leader for all that long, whatever happens.

  • Alexsandr

    DIFID is a disgrace. should be shut down and any residual function given to the FCO. Its budget can be used to pay down government debt.

    • Frank P

      Considering the damage that has been, is being being – and will be done to this nation’s interest, by the Arabists who rule supreme at the FCO, it too should be shut down, but as a precursor to shutting down the DIFID (aka slush fund for kick-backing third-world gangsters/tyrants).

      Oh, if only we had a real police force/serious fraud office/investigative arm of journalism? They should all hang their heads in shame. All, in pursuit of short term career prospects, are part of the treasonous conspiracy to bury our nation beneath the internationalist behemoth, if not by active complicity then by default. As for our so-called elected administration … nah! There are not enough words in the lexicon of scatology for me to describe THAT obscene ensemble.

      And to think I voted for my local conservative candidate in the last election?

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