Monday, 7 November 2011

Oxfam and UK aid to Kenya

I had a phonecall today from Oxfam asking for me to donate to their East Africa Disaster Fund. In the past I've had a direct debit thing to Oxfam, but I cancelled it when I became seriously in debt.

Anyhoo, I think its terrible that the worst famine in living memory has hit East Africa, countries like Kenya, and if I could give money I would.

At the end of the call the nice lady who'd phoned on behalf of Oxfam let me know she actually worked for a marketing firm who were paid £40,000 to make these phone calls in the hope of getting £120,000 of donations over the next five years.

Now the thing about aid to Africa is an awkward thing, I've read successful Africans suggesting "trade, not aid" would be more helpful to the continent. Also, Kenya is one of the continent's success stories, after decades of misrule, they've had a bit of stability for the past fifteen years or so. Their GDP growth makes the UK's look like a third world country, and they're one of the relatively less corrupt African nations.

Anyhoo, the UK government gives Kenya tens of millions in aid each year, the Department for International Development kind of ambiguously says £64.2 million or £128 million per year. I'm wondering how come they're not a bit more resilient to famine? Haven't they spend any money on things like food stores and that sort of thing? What have they spent all the money on?

And furthermore, how can a country, any country, not be financially self-sufficient? How can Kenya be a money pit that needs £128 million from the UK alone every year?

Even the UK, is running up an ever increasing budget deficit, but £128 million of that is on behalf of Kenya.

Are both the UK and Kenya spending money on the wrong things?

Sure this current famine is a disaster, but Kenya gets that aid money whether there's a disaster or not.

Elsewhere on the internet, on Occupy London's manifesto thing and their other social media thing, there seems to be an undercurrent of the assumption that a government's role is to extract as much money as possible from the population, and if there is more money there unextracted, it should be prised from the rich, and then spent.

This makes me feel uncomfortable. The government are crap, all governments to greater and lesser degrees are crap, they're never as good at spending my money wisely than I am, and I think that applies to everyone. Individually we can spend our money more wisely than the government, based on what we individually judge is wise.

Then again, I'm a frothing at the mouth centre-left libertarian.

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