Mark Curtis: 'British aid is a Trojan horse for Western business'

From a speech by the Director of the World Development Movement, to the organisation's annual conference
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The Independent Online

The government has had a remarkably good press on its policies affecting international development; Clare Short was even described as a "champion of the world's poor". The Government has stopped the practice of tying aid to recipients having to buy goods from the UK, has increased the aid budget, and has been a leading international voices on debt relief.

This seems positive. But look closer and a different picture emerges. There is no longer any tied aid, but it has been replaced by what has been called "globalised aid" - where aid is in effect tied to promoting liberalisation and privatisation. Britain's aid to Mozambique is conditional on the continuing privatisation of the water sector. In countries like Uganda, Vietnam, Ghana and Tanzania, Britain has explicitly incorporated World Bank conditions, including privatisation, into its aid programme.

Britain has increased its aid, but this gives it even more levers to impose the neoliberal economic model. The same goes for debt relief. Take Gordon Brown's recent proposal that has been billed as doubling international aid using new finance mechanisms - called the International Finance Facility. Our analysis is that this won't double aid - in fact, it is likely that it will result in less aid over the longer term.

There is one basic British goal in the world: to ensure that the global economy functions to benefit British and Western corporations, meaning that countries' markets are to be opened up to those corporations. Or, in short, plundered for private profit.