This man is desperate for food. Our answer was to spend pounds 8m so that eight world leaders (and their wives) could talk about him

THOUSANDS of miles from Birmingham, the people of Mali knew nothing of the grand meeting of First World leaders at the weekend who gathered, with their wives and entourages, to discuss global affairs.

The man begging for morsels in the picture, like millions more in Africa, can expect a life that is poor, under- nourished and short. He illustrates painfully the gravity ofThird World poverty.

These are the poor peoples the debt relief campaigners had in mind when they demanded that the leaders of the world's industrialised nations cut debts owed by the poorest countries to the West.

They received a few fine words but little else from the G8 summit in Birmingham where the wining, dining and diplomacy of a handful of prime ministers and presidents cost the kind of huge sums that would have saved thousands of lives.

Birmingham, by contrast, is very happy. The summit has put the city on the map and pumped millions into its economy. The City Council estimates that the total spending on and by the summit in the city was between pounds 10m and pounds 11m. Of this, the official summit, the media and other visitors - such as the debt campaigners themselves - together spent pounds 2.6m on hotels, pounds 600,000-plus on food and drink and pounds 380,000 in shops.

The Foreign Office said its budget for the affair was pounds 8.3m, which accounts for a large chunk of the pounds 10million figure. But officials are remarkably reticent on details and yesterday refused to provide any kind of breakdown beyond saying they hoped to come in under budget. However, it can be assumed that taxpayers' money went on renting the International Convention Centre, a huge bill for policing and security and lesser costs of accommodation, entertainment, food, media facilities, renting Weston Hall for the retreat on Saturday and so forth.

Andrew Simms of Christian Aid said yesterday: "The cost of the summit could have provided a basic healthcare package for more than 1 million people in the least developed countries for a year. The summit might have been money well spent if it had delivered progress on the core issues of meeting human needs. But that was exactly what it did not do."

Take the pounds 2 that Bill Clinton's pint in the Malt House pub would have cost. Ann Pettifor, director of the Jubilee 2000 coalition of aid agencies, charities and churches campaigning for debt relief, said pounds 2 a person a year in Mozambique would save the lives of 600 children and the 15 women who die in childbirth every day. "We didn't begrudge the President his pint. But to accept the present debt relief scheme, as do Clinton and Blair, is to say it is acceptable for these women and children to die in order to pay debts," she said.

The council's leader, Theresa Stewart, said the summit had done the city a tremendous amount of good. "I have been informed that we will be very well placed when it comes to choosing a stage for future heads of state gatherings." Her deputy, Bryan Bird, added: "As a city, we raised ourself a couple of notches in esteem. We established Birmingham on the world stage."

World summitry is big business and Birmingham spent money to be ready. On top of a decade of inner-city regeneration, renovation programmes on the Council House were brought forward to help the city look its best. They planted their flower beds earlier than usual and laid on street entertainment in an pounds 800,000 programme to make sure world leaders saw the best of Birmingham. Glorious sunshine helped. And even the grass was dyed green.

Tony Blair, in his concluding summit statement, thanked the city for its "extraordinary and stunning display". He said: "There is no doubt this is now a major international centre."

The Foreign Office stresses that the Commonwealth heads of state conference in Edinburgh and the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) in London in April both came in under budget. "We went to extraordinary lengths to make it a good value-for-money summit. We raised over pounds 500,000 in sponsorship," a spokeswoman said.

Rover provided a fleet of 100 vehicles and were credited as a sponsor, although the company would provide no details of what money was involved. "It's a prestige thing, obviously," a spokesman said. Canon, Fujitsu and the computer company Dell helped with photocopiers and other technical equipment for the media centre.

Both for the delegates' concert at Symphony Hall and for a parallel "people's concert", artists from Lionel Richie to Mick Hucknall of Simply Red are understood to have given their services for free.

The Royal Shakespeare Company, too, said it was "pleased" to have provided an evening's entertainment for the G8 leaders' wives. "I think it was seen as an honour," a spokeswoman said.

A consortium including the BBC welcomed the world's press with a lavish party in the Brindley Place development of bars and restaurants, in the city. The organiser Mike Owen, a Birmingham PR consultant, said: "I'd seen it done in America. Welcoming the media isn't essential, but if you've got these people here you ought to show them the city."

Everyone looked and saw that Birmingham was booming. Yet the comfortable aura of success did not embrace everyone. Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth was furious at the large numbers of vehicles used to shuttle the leaders around.

And most unhappy of all were the debt relief campaigners who want greater action to reduce the debts of the world's poorest countries. They argue that the present debt relief scheme for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries is inadequate because it will not alleviate poverty. They believe it is merely concerned with getting such countries into a position where they are able to pay their debts.

Jean-Louis Sarbib, vice- president of the World Bank, told American journalists: "It's not really wiping off the debt. It's just making sure these countries remain good credit risks."

The final summit communique endorsed the relief scheme but gave no targets for getting the poorest countries to qualify for debt relief under the scheme. The commitment was even weaker than the Mauritius mandate proposed by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, last year, which called for three-quarters of the poorest countries to be embraced by the scheme by 2000.

Jessica Woodroffe, of the World Development Movement, said: "If Tony Blair had got the G8 to commit to a meaningful package of debt cancellation, he would have made his mark as a world leader and touched the lives of millions." The event had turned into exactly the talking shop he said he wanted to avoid, she added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
tvGame of Thrones season 5 episode 1 review
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Fabian Delph celebrates his goal
footballChristian Benteke and Fabian Delph turn semi-final after Liverpool goal
Life and Style
Model wears: top £29.50, leggings £25, jacket £29.50, bag £25, all
Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace