Letter: Good and bad uses of overseas development aid

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Sir: The question that arises from the Scott inquiry and the revelations about the Malaysian dam, as suggested in your leading article ('Sweetener hides a bitter truth', 19 December), is whether John Major and his government are justified in promoting indiscriminately the sale of arms throughout the world in order to provide employment in Britain. The argument, in terms of realpolitik, is that, if we do not supply the arms, our competitors will. But realpolitik has a habit of rebounding on those who use it. We have seen what this can mean in terms of supplying arms to kill our own men in Iraq.

A sounder, not to say more principled policy would be to spend money now spent on sweeteners such as the Malaysian dam project, on providing alternative employment for those in the arms trade in Britain. A sum similar to that syphoned off for the dam from genuine Third World aid, if used to encourage alternative employment would be well spent; it would undoubtedly save many lives in wars now equipped by our factories.

Yours faithfully,


Tenterden, Kent

19 January