Letter: Refocusing Britain's development aid

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The Independent Online
Sir: The former High Commissioner of Sierra Leone Derek Partridge was right to point out (letter, 20 January) just how little development money has gone to countries such as Sierra Leone, which the United Nations Development Programme ranked 159 out of 160 on its Human Development Index.

I have just returned from there. The average income is less than a dollar a day. One in four children do not reach their fifth birthday. Illiteracy is 85 per cent. The population is doubling every 27 years and only 4 per cent of women can use modern family planning because of lack of access or cost, although British agencies such as Population Concern are proving there is a huge demand for their services if they are given a chance.

It is a nonsense to say British aid is well targeted. More than 70 per cent is tied to trade. More and more is being diverted from development in Africa to East and Central Europe to help British accountancy firms or other consultants to establish footholds. And more is being steered to the European Union. The fact is that even less development aid goes to Africa every year.

Contrast the scandal over the Pergau dam in Malaysia. I would suggest investigators also look at Indonesia and the large amount of aid that has gone there in the last year, following the sale of Hawk aircraft. Why did both Malcolm Rifkind and Douglas Hurd visit Indonesia at much the same time? How many other cases are there like the Pergau dam?

Yours sincerely,


MP for Clydebank and

Milngavie (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

22 January

The writer is Labour foreign affairs spokesman on Africa.