Monday, 14 June 2010

Cutting Aid?

Someone showed me this questionnaire that YouGov did the other day about all sorts of stuff, one part of which I really didn't like. It turns out that when asked what should be first in line for cuts in the next budget a big majority (from all classes and ages there was 61%, along with 72% of Tory's and 69% of the over 55's; though before I get abuse I should point out that no party has actually suggested this yet.) said that International Aid was the thing that should be cut down first. It seems to be the one area of agreement across the whole spectrum, so I thought I'd say why I think cutting International Aid is one of the last things we should be doing.

The arguments for cutting it are that - you have to sort out the problems at home before you help abroad; that we can't afford to give away money when we are short of cash; and that its wrong to give money supporting people abroad when people in the UK are suffering from cuts. I really don't think any of these stand up to scrutiny, here's why.

I think that the fact we give aid to the less well off nations is one of the genuinely good uses of money from public funds. It gives us some sense of perspective which is so often lost in the rubble of political point scoring. Talk your rubbish about 'Broken Britain' if you will but in reality we have it good, we have it very good.

We live in a country where the state will support you if times get hard and if you're ill you can have treatment and a bed for nothing. We have world-class education for all and more opportunity than many other country's in the western world. We give aid because we realise that no matter how much we might want things to improve, our needs are nothing compared to the conditions billions of people around the world have to contend with.

You can't get that new three-bed detached because the government taxes you too much? You're welcome to your qualms, but don't whinge when a tiny proportion of the cash you give is directed to people who would kill to have any sort of house. In fact, moving out of a tent in the refugee camp would be an upgrade.

The whole idea that we should worry solely about ourselves and maybe we'll throw a penny change in the charity jar if we're feeling particularly generous is outdated. I hate everything about nationalism and wish it a speedy death. We need to make sure patriotism (which I have no problem with, the more flags flying for the world cup that better) doesn't bleed over into a more tribalistic nationalism which assumes we are somehow more important than them, where them is meant to be anyone not from our tiny island, i.e. most of the world.

Let's not get rid of the one thing which gives s perspective, that reminds us we are insanely lucky to live the kind of life that our country offers. Anything more than food, water, shelter and security is a luxury to the majority of the planet. We should do our bit to help where we can, and a tiny bit of tax isn't much to ask.

1 comment:

Unbiased Opinion. said...

Agreed. Remember the earthquake in Haiti? There were so many facebook statuses about how we should not be giving money to them. People need to learn to distinguish between relative and absolute poverty- and realise that we really don't give very much in the grand scale of things.