Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 15 July 2010

As some of you will know the coalition government has made the decision to protect the budget for overseas aid (now called international development). I support this decision, but recognise that it has a few of you scratching your heads. Why on earth, you ask, are we continuing to pump money overseas when we face severe cutbacks here? After all, you point out, charity begins at home. My own father says this to me every time I see him and I must confess I have been unable to persuade him. Let me try with you.
1. It is in our national interest. Perhaps the greatest threat to our country's security is poverty and instability in the developing world.  Apart from the misery it spawns, abject poverty triggers the mass movement of people (immigration) and fuels terrorism. Anything we can do to encourage good governance and self-reliance will create more stability for all of us.
2. We made a promise in the election campaign. We spelt out in our manifesto that we would protect the overseas aid budget. This was partly to show that our party had changed for the better and partly because we felt it was the right thing to do. On the whole I am in favour of politicians keeping their promises so everybody knows where we stand.
3. Charity does not begin at home. The story of the Good Samaritan was intended to convey precisely the opposite. The victim who got set upon by robbers was a Jew, yet it was a Jew and a Jewish Rabbi who walked by on the other side. It was a foreigner, and a hostile one to boot, the Samaritan, who showed compassion and intervened at his own expense.
4. We are improving the quality of our aid. In the past too much was wasted and creamed off by corrupt politicians and officials overseas. We are now insisting on higher standards and more focus and will only fund initiatives that work. We are reviewing which countries receive our help. As a result we have stopped aid to China and India with immediate effect.
5. Compared to most vast spending budgets the aid budget is a minnow. Even if we broke our promise and trimmed the budget it would not change the dynamic of cuts elsewhere. Even in these tough times, we should be doing our bit to make the world a better place.
Have I convinced you?

posted by Gary @ 18:19