Why we shouldn't transfer money from foreign aid to flood relief in this country

The Government has so far failed to adequately defend spending abroad

Share

As pensioners are ferried out of their homes by dinghy, and the fields of Somerset are replaced by lakes, here is a question to which nobody has so far given a satisfactory answer: why shouldn’t we divert money from the aid budget to help victims of flooding?

Ukip leader Nigel Farage stamped his wellington boots and called for a transfer of funds last week, a solo later supported by the full orchestra of the Daily Mail. Eric Pickles, the minister in charge of flood response, had a go at a reply on Sky News but only brought forth more unwanted dribble. “If it is truly global warming,” he said (softly softly, eh sir?) “and our aid is sustainable aid, then aid that we are offering in other parts of the world will have an effect in terms of the things that happen in this country”.

Let’s dredge this statement a moment. First, the sole Government defence of the aid budget issued so far rests on a big “if”. Second, it backs up the Ukip leader’s underlying assertion that money spent on aid ought to show clear gains “in this country”, at the same time as pushing any returns far enough off into the future to mollify precisely zero of the Somerset residents currently enduring misery.

This is a critical moment for the aid budget. It hardly matters that, as the Department for International Development (DFID) has pointed out, European regulations would prevent any aid money being spent in this country. What is at stake here is whether aid spending can stand up for itself when there is a very visible, very emotional case to siphon off some of the £11bn budget (which will reach 0.7% of GDP this year) for stricken Brits.

Two strands of development thought complicate a defence. First, the gradual acceptance that the old binaries of “developed” and “developing” world are becoming less relevant. While the extremely poor remain extremely poor, their number is falling - with comparatively little assistance from aid – and many development economists now favour helping people in the ‘Third World’ with measures that have a distinctly ‘First World’ flavour: tackling road safety, smoking, and tax avoidance. The flipside here is that if development experts can no longer simply separate “them” from “us”, how can they respond when Somerset is being compared (however absurdly) to Bangladesh in the right wing press?

The second problem is this: there is a divide between spending for development and disaster relief. Farage would keep the latter form of spending – as well as clean water and healthcare projects - but cut all the rest. Yet when economic development programmes work well – such as DFID’s help in creating the successful Burundi tax authority, or raising farmer incomes in Northern Nigeria – they can contribute to life-changing prosperity.

So why not transfer to Somerset? Because suffering in Somerset is mild compared to that in Bangladesh. Because there’s already plenty of money in and political attention on these floods. And because although Britain’s attempts to reduce poverty aren’t perfect, we owe the world more than a turned back.

 

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power