The Scandal of Foreign Aid (2012), Sean Gabb

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Sean Gabb, Director of the Libertarian Alliance, debating with Tom Levitt of Concern Worldwide (UK) on BBC Radio Ulster on the 23rd September 2012. He makes these points against foreign aid:

  1. That, as the late Peter Bauer said, it takes money from poor people in rich countries and gives it to rich people in poor countries;
  2. That it also gives large amounts of money to friends and clients of the British ruling class - see, for example, the revelation that £500m of the aid budget goes to well-paid consultants, including Adam Smith International;
  3. That is is also largely given with strings attached, so that the recipients buy British goods - this being a roundabout subsidy to well-connected business interests in this country;
  4. That it enables funds to be diverted in recipient countries to evil or just grandiose ends - for example, every pound spent on feeding the poor in some African countries is another pound he local rulers can spend on bullets; or the fact that British aid to India is about equal to the cost of the Indian space programme;
  5. That where the money is not spent badly, it is often just stolen;
  6. That, every penny of the £c13bn aid budget is borrowed, and the taxes to repay this will fall on the poor of future generations. It would be a good idea not to add to the national debt in the first place. But, if the money cannot be saved, it would be better if the money were spent on the poor in our own country.

Tom Levitt claims that these points were all fair until ten years ago. Since then, the scandals have all been ended, and the aid really is used to make lives better for people in poor countries. Sean replies that he was told all this on a BBC debate 12 years ago. It was a false claim then, and it is almost certainly a false claim now. He refers to the £500m of the aid budget diverted to friends and clients of the ruling class.

Further Note

Concern Worldwide (UK) is a registered charity. Its total income reported for the year ending the 31st December 2011 was £25,065,197. Of this £11,626,893 came from the taxpayers - £10,230,804 from the Department for International Development alone. Its "real" income as a charity - ie, money given by consenting adults - was £7,494,082.

Its wage bill was £1,667,471. Divide this between its 71 employees - 50 of them classified as in "marketing" - and we have an average salary of £23,485. I do not know the actual spread of salaries. But one person was listed as earning more than £60,000.

I make no further comment.