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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Cameron: "Hey! You poor people. You want some cash?"

"Now. Who wants some cash? Hands up."

Speaking in Liberia, on the 1st of February, David Cameron was right when he said:

"…. I also think it’s important we look at those things that keep countries poor: conflict, corruption, lack of justice, lack of the rule of law."

Despite promising to spend billions on overseas aid, he was still at least partly aware that it’s not all about aid – or about Western money going to poor countries. The problem is: was this just rhetoric on his part? That is, is he really willing to - or even capable of - doing something about “conflict, corruption, lack of justice, lack of rule of law” in these poor countries? Can he do anything at all? Also, how deeply is that poverty tied in to corruption, lack of justice, etc.? More to the point. Perhaps Western governments and even charities! - gain from this corruption, lack of justice, etc. even if they would never in a million years publicly admit to this or even admit it to themselves. Perhaps overseas aid is more about politics here not politics in the poor world. Perhaps it’s also a question of empty piety towards the poor.

The worst thing about much overseas aid is that it often doesn't even work in the first place. The third-world elite consume it themselves. Even when aid is tied to projects - they may be the wrong - or wasteful - projects.

There must be other reasons for churning money out to overseas beneficiaries. Political reasons not actually based on the alleviation of poverty but on Realpolitik, or shady business deals, or aid charities and businesses feeling good about themselves. Aid is a business - a big business. And where there is business there is greed and corruption. For some people aid is a well-paid career with lots of fringe-benefits. Is it nasty to point this out?

These countries simply must get their own shit together. It's rarely about genuine blight or failed harvests. It’s about corruption, lack of democracy, etc. Perhaps most of all – it’s about the lack of any genuinely free market (which David Cameron didn’t seem to mention) – or any free market at all. 

Aid often just prolongs the problem in order to make UK govs look good to others Western govs and to pious Leftists, Liberals and even Tories. It’s also at least partly about oversees charities feeling pious about their own supreme goodness towards the poor – no matter what. 

Good deeds and goodness are OK - but not if they don’t often work in the first place! In fact, as I said, they can partly - or even wholly - prolong the problem of third-world poverty.

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