Letters: Aid with too many strings

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your front page lead of 18 April was a valiant attempt to raise the election campaign to issues of aid and development. It rightly emphasised the good work done by Chancellor Kenneth Clark in getting Western countries to agree to debt relief proposals; and contrasted this with the role of the IMF, and the USA in particular, in delaying their introduction and tying them to the kind of economic shock treatment seen in Eastern Europe.

However, your economics editor, Diane Coyle, does no service to an informed debate by telling readers that "the Conservative manifesto does not mention aid, while Labour's affirms its commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid". In truth, not only does the Tory manifesto mention aid, but in many respects it says much the same about it as Labour, while both parties make clear that the UN's target of 0.7 per cent of GDP is a spending objective, not a promise.

In one crucial respect, though, they are rather different. The Tories want to focus aid on countries "growing towards self-sufficiency under democratic government", while Labour wants to target aid to those in greatest need. While the Conservatives seem to expect countries such as Rwanda to play by "Westminster rules", Labour is interested only in the poorest of the poor.

But where does any of this leave those developing countries that aren't starving, or show precious little sign of "growing towards democracy"?


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