Saturday, January 07, 2006

Free Gift


Today's Daily Telegraph came with a 96 page free gift: "The Rough Guide To A BETTER WORLD...the essential guide to how the world can be a better place for its poorest inhabitants".

There's a forward by Sir Robert Geldof, and contributions from the usual development celebs, like Chris Martin of Clodplay, Ronan Keating, Parminder Nagra, and Jon Snow of C4 News.

What's it for? To explain to us "how prosperity in poor countries benefits us all...the challenges...five ways to change the world...how you can be part of it."

In particular, they want us to "speak out on behalf of poor people." They urge us to take up "advocacy":

"It's about directly engaging in the political process- even going eyeball to eyeball with political decision-makers...In 2004 campaigners began a sustained lobby of the UK government arguing that the aid budget should be significantly raised..."

Well, fair enough. If the DT, Rough Guides, and all those celebs want to give us a free gift, then fair enough. If they want to urge us to take up political activism to persuade our government to spend more on aid, yes, fair enough. You'd have to wonder if the money might not have been better spent on an anti-maleria programme, say. But overall, fair enough.

Except...wait...wha...what's this?

"This publication is an output from a project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID)."

Umm...so, the DFID- a government department- is funding a book, given free to all DT readers, urging them to engage with...er, the government, in order to press them to give more money to...er, the DFID to spend on aid.

That can't be right.

No, it can't be. It is an outrageous misuse of public funds. Funds which in this case have been given to the DFID to spend on aid. Not on yet more celeb aid propaganda directed at us, the poor schmucks actually funding it.

Of course, this is not the first time DFID have abused the trust placed in them: see this post by Chicken Yoghurt on the £270m they've blown on consultants in just the last three years.

Personally, I do believe rich countires should spend to help poor countries. But DFID are currently spending £4.6bn pa of our money, and I have little confidence they are spending it wisely.

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