Putting Priti Patel in charge of international development is like putting a fox in charge of chicken safety
15 Jul 2016Labour’s reforms to protect aid from becoming a bribe to the leaders of poor nations to sign contracts with British companies is exactly what Priti Patel is against writes Diane Abbott MP
Those who believe in Britain’s duty to help reduce poverty and promote human rights worldwide should be alarmed at Prime Minister Theresa May’s appointment for the role of Secretary of State for International Development.
Priti Patel is on record as saying that she advocates bringing back hanging.Capital punishment was rightly banned in this country because it was not a significant deterrent and was shown on countless occasions to have sent innocent men and women to the gallows.It is astonishing that in 2016 a British Secretary of State could believe in hanging, either from a practical or a moral point of view.
She is also on the record as saying that her new department should be abolished and that aid should be a tool to serve UK business interests.British aid has helped and continues to help the poorest in the world and marginalised groups.
It has strengthened health systems across the developing world, contributing to a 53.5 per cent reduction in child mortality between 1990 and 2015 – a total of 6.8 million lives saved.Britain is also among the biggest contributors in aid to eradicating malaria, which is on track to being eliminated by 2040.Britain has learned from experience that tying aid to UK commercial interests undermines its development impact because it will be used not for poverty reduction but for the subsidy of British business and the security state.
It was exactly this tying of aid to commercial interests that resulted in a series of scandals throughout the Thatcher and Major governments, including the notorious £200m aid-for-arms deal with Malaysia that became known as the Pergau Dam scandal.Britain provided aid for a British company to build a dam of little development value in Malaysia in exchange for Malaysia signing a billion-pound arms deal with a private UK arms firm.
After coming to power in 1997, Labour scrapped the Aid and Trade Provision, the official mechanism by which aid was used to subsidise British company contracts, and in 2001 untied aid from UK commercial interests.
The International Development Act 2002 for the first time legally committed the UK to spending aid only on poverty reduction.Labour’s reforms to protect aid from becoming a bribe to the leaders of poor nations to sign contracts with British companies is exactly what Priti Patel is against.Her vision of aid is that the alchemy of “free trade” is all that is required to reduce poverty in the Sahel or in Bangladesh.
It is this kind of thinking ignores the power dynamics at play when rich and powerful nations strike tax and trade deals with poor and powerless countries.Only untied aid and a strong Department of International Development can ensure British aid is used for the good of the world’s poor and not for the good of vested British interests.Putting her in charge of the Department for International Development is like putting a fox in charge of chicken safety.
* From http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/putting-priti-patel-in-charge-of-international-development-is-like-putting-a-fox-in-charge-of-a7138241.html