Wednesday, October 20, 2004
UK Foreign aid goes to Ultra right wing lobby group
Why is British tax payers' foreign aid money being given to an ultra-right wing UK lobby group to promote schemes that will rob South Africa's poor of affordable access to water?
The agency keeping the South African government on track is Britain's Department for International Development (DfID). This year it is giving £6.3m to the Adam Smith Institute - the ultra-rightwing privatization lobby group - for "public-sector reform" in South Africa. Staggeringly, the institute has been given its own budget - £5m of British aid money - to disburse as it pleases. By this means, DfID can generate all the support it likes for privatization and public-private partnerships, while avoiding direct responsibility for the decisions the institute makes.
DfID is plainly breaking the law. The International Development Act forbids it from spending money for any purpose other than the elimination of poverty. It might also have broken the rules forbidding it to link aid money to deals for specific British businesses. DfID funds or has recently funded (it has so far been unable to tell me whether or not the scheme is still current) something called the "British investment in South Africa promotion scheme", which promotes "business-to-business links" between companies in the UK and companies in South Africa. What this is doing inside a foreign aid department, no one can say.
I am not suggesting that DfID has told Johannesburg council "thou shalt strike a public-private partnership with a British company, and make sure that it is profitable for that company by forcing everyone to pay the full price for their water, regardless of their ability to do so". I am suggesting that it is creating a policy environment which encourages that outcome. And it is doing so with money allocated for something called foreign aid. Is there anyone out there who thinks this is how it should be spent?