CPS Intern Rupert Eyles reacts to the news that India has set up its own aid agency.
This week, India has proposed to set up its own aid agency to distribute $11 billion over the next five to seven years. This despite the fact that according to the UN Millenium Development Goal (MDG) monitor, more than a third of India's population live on less than $1.25 a day. In the light of this development, and bearing in mind that this nuclear superpower has also started to head its own Space Programme, severe questions should now be asked about the Department for International Development’s (DFID) decision to give £280 million a year over 4 years to India.
Whilst being the 11th largest economy in the world and boasting a Defense budget of £20 billion, not far behind the UK, DFID has defended its decision to grant billions to India by emphasizing how ‘large pockets of poverty’ still exist within the country, and thus the money will be used to target the most destitute. Nice to know the cash isn’t going to pay for Lakshmi Mittal’s money clip I suppose, or any of Indian’s numerous billionaires for that matter (the country now has three times as many as we do). Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce endeavoured to reassure us further by stressing: "The test of whether the UK should continue to give aid to India is whether that aid makes a distinct, value-added contribution to poverty reduction which would not otherwise happen. We believe most UK aid does this.”
Lest we be concerned that India’s Space Programme exemplified its nouveau-riche status in the big boys Champions League of Nations, a report by the International Development insisted the programme also delivered socio-economic benefits, such as mapping weather patterns and the extent of floods. Still, that fails to account for the paltry $4.8 billion that India is spending on getting its first manned mission into space by 2016, in addition to the expenditure on Armageddon and Apollo 13 memorabilia I presume. I reckon a little soiree to celebrate the landing of the first man on the moon can be funded through India’s $300 billion foreign reserves.
So, with these programmes in mind, why is the UK granting so much Aid to India, even if it is apparently helping to reduce poverty in the country? If a country can afford to set aside $11 billion for other, even poorer, countries, on top of a space programme and rising defense spending, I presume that it can take the matter of national deprivation into its own hands?! What is more, if the UK wishes to become an Aid Superpower, which it clearly does under the Coalition, perhaps it should learn to channel its funds to countries receiving Aid from other supposedly impoverished countries (like India). As the humanitarian crisis in Somalia grows, surely funds should be redirected to the Horn of Africa. Furthermore, in this time of financial crisis, Mr. Mitchell may need to re-think his Aid commitment, though he may feel the ghost of Mr. Blair which spooks and simultaneously guides the Coalition, is too ghoulish to combat, and will therefore comply with the New Labour legacy of transferring billions to middle-income countries.
As for India, let us hope it’s been following the, let’s be kind and leave it at mixed, record of Overseas Development Assistance over the past century. I know it’s perhaps overemphasized by Hitchens et al at the Daily Mail when commenting on UK Aid expenditure, but unless India meticulously monitors its $11 billion fund, it could unintentionally find itself facilitating the purchase of fleets of luminous coloured, garishly-furnished, Hummers for a gangster who happens to have found himself into a Presidential suite of a nation through ‘elections’.
Back to the drawing then for DFID? Oh, and a few more riot police wouldn’t go amiss.