Monday 20 April 2015

Reply to a question about aid to developing countries

This is a summary of a reply that I gave to a constituent about debt traps and the morality of the UK giving aid as loans instead of grants:

It could be argued that the UK  is actually quite a rich nation in global terms. It would seem only right and proper that we should give aid to nations who are struggling. But then the counter argument is some recipients of UK aid would feel more empowered to have a loan, rather than a gift of money, accepting a loan can allow you to keep your self respect, whereas a gift may make you feel worthless.
 However, the aid that you speak of is not from one person to another, it is large sums of money between nations, with loans accumulating interest, perhaps faster than can be repaid. I have therefore come to the following conclusions. It is not right that a relatively wealthy country such as the UK should make money from lending to a country which would struggle to pay the debt and therefore should not give loans to such nations. Aid, as a gift or grant, should be given but in ways that it could be used by the local population to help them make a living, for instance to pay for education, or tools, or community projects, or even access to the internet. I am a qualified librarian and information scientist, and one of the concerns in my profession is the digital divide, and the lack of Information in developing countries. By Information, I mean things like healthcare, for example knowing about how the Ebola virus spreads, or how to keep your child hydrated, as well as finding out about your own history or scientific breakthroughs, just knowing about things. Access to information allows people to become self motivated learners and provides a country with a discerning and literate population. But I am getting onto my own hobby-horse now.

The Green Party policy on debt in the developing world is that the UK should lead an international initiative to write off all debts, and I would support that policy. The Green vision is that global economy should change, with a greater emphasis on local economies, and it would therefore encourage counties in the South to trade with each other, instead of exporting to the North as it does now, often to the detriment of their population. Fortunately, the Green Party policy on aid accords with my ideas (I do tend to be a bit of a free thinker) and basically it believes that UK aid should be given out according to internationally agreed objective criteria to support locally designed and managed projects which will lead to a sustainable way of life and long term development. You can read more of the policy at:
 What would I do to stop a new debt trap being set in the global South? I would press what ever government is formed after the election, to write off the debts from countries who cannot pay them and to persuade other countries to follow suit. I would argue that aid from the UK is targeted at projects that stimulate a local economy and  ensure that the recipient country will gain a long term sustainable economic future. 

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