There is a lot of talk at the moment about if we should be spending money on aid to overseas countries. On the one hand, there are many people suffering int he world, and therefore as one of the leading countries in the world, we should be doing the moral thing and helping people who are in a much worse situation than we are. However on the other hand, we have many people in the UK who are slipping into poverty and homelessness, and therefore why are we giving money to other governments and organisations when we have the problems right on our doorstep? Should we be prioritising in this age of austerity?
In the first instance, what are we talking about £7.8 BILLION that we give away to countries such as Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Pakistan. India is also on the list, receiving £295m.
And I think that is the rub. We are cutting back on what we call our vital services, such as the NHS and education systems. We are making people redundant right left and centre and have a pretty stagnant economy, and we are giving £295,000,000.00 to a country that is one of the most developing in the world right now with an economy growing at 10%!
We as a Country are being made to fend for ourselves under the veil of “Big Society” with Community Offers and miserly bribes to run our own libraries, youth services, so why can’t other countries come under the same package, especially when we know their governments have considerable funds, they just don’t use it on their people. Why is the Government we not saying to these countries what they are saying to our communities – Use it or lose it? If we don;t man our own library, then we obviously don;t need it, if they don;t use our tax money for what we want them to use it for, should we be stopping the flow?
But then we have to remember that money isn’t everything, and that we have to have a sense of morality and humanity. Yes India has a great growth rate, but it also has some of the poorest communities in the world. Can we just stand aside and say “sorry we want our community library” and not at least try to help? That £7.8bn is less that 1% of our GDP, so in the grand scheme of things it is peanuts.
You could argue that if we stopped overseas aid, until we have sorted out or own economy so it is thriving again, we could then restart aid, and perhaps be able to give more at that time.
But in the meantime, people who rely on that aid on a day-to-day basis will suffer, and suffer badly.
I think there is no easy answer to this, and we can really tie ourselves in knots over it. One part of me says we should be looking inward in the first instance, but then those are real lives that we are playing with, easy to dismiss if you switch the TV off, but it’s no movie, its real life and they don’t have the luxury of the off switch. But just as they don’t have an off switch, neither do those in Poverty and Homeless in our cities and towns.