Friday, May 27, 2005

more and better aid

A report published today by the NGO Actionaid highlights what it has termed 'Phantom Aid'. That is aid which governments declare they are making available or transferring to countries in need or NGO's working in areas affected by disasters, but really the majority of it is spent on expenses. You know the score I suspect, consultants, letter headed paper, flights, expenses etc. Well depressingly its real. A lot of aid is spent in the country of origin on goods and services made in that country. According to Actionaid 61% of all aid is 'Phantom' and the stats don't get any better.

For an age now the UN has been recommending that to make a dent in the poverty felt so sharply by most of the worlds population a minimum of 0.7% of a rich nations GDP be spent on International Aid. That most countries aren't even coming close is depressing enough but subtracting this 'Phantom Aid' shows that some are giving as little as 0.1% of their national income.

Britain is a Trillion Pound economy, still the fourth largest in the world. A Trillion in case you are wondering looks like this - £1,000,000,000,000 - a thousand Billions (calculated the American way). At current rates taking into account the actual aid that gets through to those in need (as we now know that so much is lost enroute) Britain gives just 0.2-0.3% of this away.

The politics not to mention the logistics of giving money and assistance to those deemed as needing it is very, very difficult to grapple with. Take my word as someone who currently studies Development. Some countries have become dependant on overseas aid and others such as Cambodia for example have so many NGO's present offering 'assistance' that much of the country is now geared to servicing them and all the admin and internal politics that goes with International organisations. An additional layer of bureaucracy has emerged. Its difficult to see if much overall good is being done.

We then find ourselves looking to those in power. The UK minister for International Development is Hilary Benn. Son of the outspoken Tony Benn, I often find myself wishing he was a little more like his father. Described often as a 'tool' by those who have met him, many think he isn't fighting hard enough. He could do with getting his own house in order according to the Actionaid report: "UK DfID officials posted overseas get allowances for business class flights, which can be transferred towards holiday flights. DfID administrative costs, at 11.5%, are well above the 8% ceiling allowed by DfID in its funding agreements with NGOs."

Careful money management rather than throwing vast amounts of sums of money at the problem is certainly a key way forward. More and beter aid is the current useful mantra to remember. The amount currently being spent on expenses and much lengthy consultation is not what's needed. I hope that the up until now largely ineffectual Mr Benn and his department take note.

[blogging by Dan]

1 comment:

Porl said...

cool, that's interesting. Have you got a blog of your own, Dan?