Criticism of UK aid: it’s time for aid advocates to make a choice — Phil Vernon’s blog

Recent articles in British newspapers The Times and the Mail question whether the British Government is able to spend over £12 bn per year on overseas development aid. This in a context of large government cuts in other expenditure, while parliament legislated in 2015 that Britain is required to spend at least 0.7% of the […]

via Criticism of UK aid: it’s time for aid advocates to make a choice — Phil Vernon’s blog

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Bye Joyce, welcome Michael

A little belated welcome, but hello Lord Bates as Minister of State at DFID, speaking to the House of Lords. He replaces he Rt Hon Baroness Anelay of St Johns DBE, who will continue in her role as a Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

His CV shows little experience with international development or foreign affairs issues (quite classic for most DFID junior ministers) and his Theyworkforyou profile doesn’t reveal much either.

Ah well, as usual welcome!!!

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Hello Rory Stewart, James Wharton and Baroness Anelay

DFID’s new junior ministers include Rory Stewart, James Wharton and Baroness Anelay (the last a Minister joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for the United Nations and the Commonwealth).

First Rory Stewart. He is well known for having walked across Afghanistan and staying with villagers along the way. He has experience with the Foreign Office, and as Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. In that role, he was said to champion against the Tory-Liberal Democrat and Tory defence cuts. This supposedly resulted in him being booted out of this position and “being dumped” into the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Ok, but seriously, he has a wider range of experience on various other Select Committees. Drawing him into DFID could really mean harnessing his experience and expertise regarding conflict and post-conflict regions. Or it could mean DFID gets an injection of from a FCO heavweight. We shall see….

Baroness Anelay is a another with FCO DNA in her. She has held the post of Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) during David Cameron’s Conservative majority government. More specifically, she has been Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict since June 2015. She also has a strong history in foreign relations/international affairs, having served on the Lord EU Sub-Committee and the Joint Committee on Security. Yes women’s rights and preventing sexual violence was a key priority for the two Cameron governments and naturally should be a development issue, though not exactly a subject that improves economic development. Again it begs two differing perspectives: Will she bring a FCO-related baggage with her into DFID? Or will she act in the realm of international development? Unlike Stewart’s posting, it should also be emphasised that this is a joint ministerial post. Why the need to join them together?

Ok, down to James Wharton, the junior in the group. His immediate previous appointment was “Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Minister for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse”. The Northern Powerhouse was a proposal to boost economic growth in the North of England, starting by the then Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. Under the new May government, this post has been downgraded into a nationwide agenda for boosting productivity outside the south-east. Anyway, this bring in some one with some background in economic growth to DFID. Whether he really applied what he did in his previous role is another matter.

DFID may either have new ministers with some development or issues relating to development. Or it could mean a foreign policy, economic/market-centred DFID, ala the old Overseas Development Administration (ODA, not to be confused with Official Development Assistance). Tune in to another blog post later.

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The flaws in the Anti-Corruption Agenda and how to change it

The flaws in the Anti-Corruption Agenda and how to change it

In May 2016, the UK hosted the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, bring leaders from developed and developing nations as well as practitioners and interest groups. World leaders and academic penned various articles on their views and experiences in addressing corruption. The summit ended with a strong communique noting the evil nature of corruption on growth and society, and lots of proposed initiatives to combat corruption. It thus appears that corruption is an evil phenomenon that needs to be constantly fought and removed. This article however asserts that not all forms of corruption are detrimental to a country’s development and anti-corruption methods result in adverse effects on countries.

First, there is no strong definition of corruption. It may be said that corruption is “the abuse of public trust for private again”. However, the term “public trust” is too wide definitions as different parts of the public in a community have different degrees of trust to public officials or the government. Likewise, “private gain” has a diverse range of meanings as such gain could even be redistributed to the wider community. Following suit, the action of say an individual may in fact assist not hinder development. A bribe from a government official may or may not always end up with an inefficient producer. Likewise, a free market capitalist may not always use funding efficiently. Hence, it is not advisable to classify all forms as corruption as detrimental to growth. There may also be instances where local corruption where may in fact be conducive to growth. Ha-Joon Chang cites a case where an investor in Vietnam would be better off accepting a bribe since the common method would require extensive paperwork. This of course may not be the case in all countries. However, it indicates that each country has different social and political institutions or norms which shape the development of that area.

Second, previous and present efforts to address corruption have either not stopped it or in fact inhibited development in the country. A long standing view by donors is that the state should have little inference with economic activity. This longstanding approach especially during the 1980s to the 1990s in fact allowed private and government-owned firms to practice corrupt activities. In the post-Washington Consensus era, donors suggested the state intervene to ensure stronger property rights and rational economic transactions, or just “getting the institutions right”. This meant that the state would ensure a market-centric system would still continue on. Second, it meant that the same rigid framework was presented to developing countries. This constituted the “Good Governance Agenda”, which still did not help rectify corruption. In fact, it fostered new forms of corrupt activities such as “crony capitalism” which was prevalent in post-communist Eastern European countries and before and during the Asian Financial Crisis. The Good Governance Agenda has furthered been a signpost for aid recipients to adhere to in order receive aid, further setting conditions similar to those they faced in the 1980s. As with the Washington Consensus, this agenda actually inhibited economic growth. Yet this is the agenda used by political leaders from that time until this anti-corruption agenda.

The above indicates that corruption isn’t always anti-developmental in nature and efforts have not stopped corruption and stalled development. This article does not aim to let corruption still run rampant; rather new approaches are definitely needed. First, practitioners should not view all forms of corruption as evil or anti-developmental barriers. They must careful examine each different institutional context before implementing any counteracting measures. Second, a whole new approach is needed when address actual forms of corruption. Donors and governments should focus on the poor and equality when conducting anti-corruption measures. They should not just focus on market-centric or growth-enhancing anti-corruption measures. Third, there should be a change of operational culture within donor nations and organisations for a new anti-corruption approach. Practitioners in development organisations may still focus on the same methodology and ideas, despite a stated change in approach. Such an internal change may of course take a while to alter but it is necessary in order for a different approach towards corruption.

To be completed

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Hello Priti Patel and immediate thoughts

Hello Priti Patel what have you focused on previously regarding international development. Oh Not much. Wait you once said :

A long-term strategic assessment is required, including the consideration to replace DfID with a Department for International Trade and Development in order to enable the UK to focus on enhancing trade with the developing world and seek out new investment opportunities in the global race.

“It is possible to bring more prosperity to the developing world and enable greater wealth transfers to be made from the UK by fostering greater trade and private sector investment opportunities

“Pretty good” for a Secretary of State who has to defend the fixed 0.7% of GNP/GNI position and one who is in charge of the most hated government department by the Tories. Oh the 0.7% fetish lovers will scream murder alright but she does have a point on trade, if the kind of trade is pro-development, not neoliberal or capitalist in nature.

Adding more the “DFID is doomed” part is that there is a “new” Cabinet-level department called “International Trade”, headed by once-Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox. How this department, along with the “new” “Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy” department (with control over climate change issues) will affect the UK’s 0.7% or overall Official Development Assistance (ODA), one doesn’t know. As Owen Barder placed it, “they [the Conservative Government] are committed to spending 0.7% of GNI on ODA according to the DAC definition of ODA” and “Except that they [the Conservative Government] have a recent manifesto commitment and a UK law requiring them not to drop it”.

Welcome Priti Patel to a job you probably did not want and may hate?

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Hello Kate Osamor

What do you know about International Development?

This new Shadow Secretary of State for International Development has never asked a question to DFID Ministers.

Another glance at shows small questions regarding refugees and homophobia (see this link)

Welcome, newbie! You are just as good as Harriet Harman and Diane Abbott.

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It’s right to question aid, but better to focus on effectiveness, rather than the 0.7%

The 07% fetish comes up again.

Phil Vernon's blog

A version of this post is on Huffington Post.

In the UK, a parliamentary debate can be initiated by popular petition. On 13th June, Parliament will debate the proposition that the government’s approach to foreign aid is flawed. This is based on a petition, initiated by the Mail on Sunday newspaper and signed by over 230,000 people, as follows:

Despite spending cuts at home the Government is committed to hand over 0.7% of national income in overseas aid, regardless of need. The Mail on Sunday believes voters do not want this and instead, we should provide money only for truly deserving causes, on a case-by-case basis. A bill passed in 2015 required the Government to spend a fixed 0.7% of gross national income on foreign aid. UK handouts will rise from current £12bn to £16bn by 2020. This is by far the highest rate of any G20 nation…

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