Thursday, 26 August 2010

Public Health Doesn't Have A Monopoly On Rent-Seeking

OK, we're all familiar with the concept of brown-trousered politicians collapsing at the merest hint of pressure from health-related lobby groups and fake charities, but a fellow jewel robber often e-mails to point out that it's the same story with foreign aid.

His latest, a witty re-write of yesterday's Guardian article on the backtracking by the Department for International Development, is an eye-opener and definitely worth sharing.

Our friend has struck out the flim-flam and replaced it with bold text. This is how he reckons the piece should have read:

Andrew Mitchell soothes charities' rent-seekers’ fears over planned DfID cuts

Development secretary Andrew Mitchell last night pledged to boost spending on a broad range of anti-poverty initiatives large government-funded interest groups as he sought to allay fears expressed by charities large government-funded interest groups about the government's root-and-branch study of its aid commitments investigation into whether the large government-funded interest groups actually do anything useful.

Responding to a letter signed by five leading UK agencies government-funded interest groups warning that they might consider withdrawing backing for the government's development strategy, Mitchell promised full consultation to consider the political implications to the government and his own career prospects before any final decisions were made on the future of individual programmes.

The reassurance came after the five large government-funded interest groups (who received hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer money every year) – Oxfam, Christian Aid, Action Aid, Save the Children and Cafod – wrote to Mitchell last week in the wake of a leaked report showing that the Department for International Development (DfID) was planning to scale down drastically the number of entirely pointless spending commitments inherited from Labour.

In their letter, the aid agencies said they accepted his right to hold a strategic review of DfID spending, but not if it affected their jobs, career prospects, or holidays in Tuscany. They added: "We are, however, very concerned at the apparent proposal to review and potentially drop the majority of the existing development commitments the UK has made. If this went ahead, it would impact on the full range of development policies, affecting our budgets drastically almost every sector of DfID's work."

They said commitments and targets were vital in creating support for aid spending creating nice headlines that convince Joe Public that more money should be spent on “foreign aid”, which the government has pledged to increase to 0.7% of GDP. "Mobilising public support for the UK's aid spending target will become difficult to justify to our supporters if these commitments are dropped. Without government hand-outs to pay for our propaganda to be plastered all over the Tube, our donors might want their money to only go to actual aid stuff, abroad. They might even start checking that it works."

Mitchell, one of the only two cabinet ministers to have his budget ringfenced increased in the spending review, said the government's approach had been "misreported". He said it was important DfID focused "ruthlessly on results and impact", but kept increasing spending whatever the results. He said in many areas "we anticipate increasing – not decreasing – activity, depending on the results of the reviews, and the threats made by large government-funded interest groups."

He added: "As this process of reviewing our bilateral, multilateral and humanitarian work unfolds in the months ahead, I envisage strong consultation and backroom discussions with the full range of government-funded groups and individuals NGOs, academics, experts and others who live off this multi-billion pound industry bring such strength to the UK international development effort. I have instructed my officials to ensure that the recipients of government funds are allowed to tell us whether or not to cut the funds that pay for their careers NGO community is fully engaged to help us identify the best uses of the aid budget, and have asked officials to be in touch with you to set out in detail the steps we will take to ensure that this happens.

The charities said they were pleased with the outcome of face-to-face backroom talks with Mitchell but warned they would only be able to pass judgment on the coalition's development approach once they details of the spending review were announced were 100% sure that their budgets had been protected, and that this wasn’t just a political trick by a Tory, given that they’ve been brought up in the belief that you can never trust a Tory. However, John Hilary, who has spent two decades in the pay of government-funded groups like the BBC, VSO, ActionAid, Save the Children, and is now executive director of the anti-trade, Communist pressure group War on Want, took a stronger line. "To many people in the sector who, like myself, are funded by government, what the government is doing to international development our budgets is profoundly disturbing. The return to a focus on short-term aid outputs that we saw in the 1970s is deeply regressive, whereas since then foreign aid has clearly worked in places like Ethiopia, Somalia and Zimbabwe, whilst free trade has helped no one but the Western rich."

Meanwhile, the pressure on the development secretary was maintained last night when two complete morons England footballers spearheading a global campaign for universal primary education raised concerns about government policy. The players morons, who are ambassadors for 1GOAL, said they were worried by the proposal to scrap the UK's £1bn-a-year education commitment, which represents almost a third of the world's spending for primary education and provides a great boon for ‘civil servants’ in African education departments who can siphon it off to their mates and families.

John Barnes, the former Liverpool football player and no-doubt expert in economics and development, said: "It was only six weeks ago that I was sitting in a Soweto classroom with Andrew Mitchell listening as he told children that education would remain a priority for the UK government. I can do this because I don’t have a proper job, after making so much money out of football that I can just doss around and preach nonsense to the rest of you. I'm surprised and worried that, even after being treated to a nice trip to see “evidence” of some education programme seeing the impact of education on the lives of those kids, he could be considering scrapping key commitments to education in poor countries.

Bristol City and England goalkeeper David James said: "I'm proud to be a barely-famous face fronting some or other charity that helps me avoid the usual ‘selfish footballer’ image founding ambassador of 1GOAL and part of their campaign demanding education for all. The charity’s PR people told me to say this: With over 15 million people from around the world signing up to 1GOAL's campaign, I believe it is important that the UK government continue to support this. Now I’ll go back to my mock-Tudor mansion and play Nintendo". Education gives people the tools to help themselves out of poverty and is the basis of so much of what developing countries need in terms of democracy, peace and fighting the corruption that Western governments fuel by giving billions of dollars to corrupt regimes.

Gareth Thomas, the shadow development minister, said: "This letter makes clear the significant concerns that leading aid agencies is great. Groups that we funded to the hilt such as Oxfam and Christian Aid are now doing our political work for us by attacking the new government after our cronies in Whitehall leaked documents which led to meaningless hysteria and have following the recent revelations in the media. It’s almost like someone planned it.



Anonymous said...

I am beginning to believe we are being governed by beurocracy. not parliament ,hmmm hmmm.

Pavlov's Cat said...

and than they take the money already extorted via tax and pay it to private compnaies to extort even more money on their behalf.

Charity millions 'go to fundraising companies'

I haven't gone down the list but evey one seems to ring a bell as a Fake Charity.

On the BBC no less, seems a bit 'Pot Calling etc...

Anon1 said...

There is a leaked “template” for reporting on tobacco issues. It explains why we’ve seen standard antismoking slogans in media reporting for the last few decades.

Junican said...

Anon 20:21

Why has it taken you so long!!!

Anonymous said...

Ah yes Celebs ,the acceptable mouthpieces of 1984.

Demetrius said...

More or less the whole aid programme and development funding has become a big nasty expensive racket allied to major PR capers to tell the taxpayers that what the poor nations really want is big shopping malls with the profits going to secret accounts in tax havens.

Anonymous said...

27 August 2010 02:34
Yep this explains a lot of other column inches on other subjects like AGW which seem very biased as well.
This is how the MSM are controlled by the state.
Spot on.

Anon1 said...

The smokles “scoop” appears to be a “send up”. However, if you peruse Tobacco Control media-advocacy manuals (e.g., as in the Godber Blueprint) they are an exercise in the manufacture of inflammatory propaganda. These manuals advise in the use of the most inflammatory terms possible that go far beyond the implications of fact. A scrutiny of [antismoking] articles appearing in newspapers over the last many years certainly highlights a “formula”. The formula is to include a number of successful, albeit fraudulent, slogans – even if disjointed to the story at hand - such as “the leading cause of preventable death”, the “4000 carcinogenic/toxic chemicals”, the “great financial cost to society”, the “chemicals that are also found in lead batteries and rat poison, etc”. Also included should be comments from a few nonsmokers that believe that antismoking policies are wonderful and comments from smokers who believe that their denormalization is also wonderful. The impression must always be that smoking should “justifiably” be eradicated from public and that everyone, smokers and nonsmokers alike, think it’s a grand, noble quest. The “formula”, however, is most probably not with the journalists, but with the TC advocates. Journalists simply print what they are fed by TC advocates.