Why are we giving aid to countries supporting Argentina's threat to our sovereignty in the Falklands?

June 17, 2011 12:45 PM

Shane Greer recently wrote that we should support International Aid spending because it is "about protecting Britain's interests", he goes on to narrow that down and says "it's about defence". At its broadest, this argument is so broad as to be pretty meaningless. Any policy decision that makes the world a better place could be argued in the same way. We could equally insist corporate tax cuts are a security measure as the boost they will provide to our GDP will improve our capacity to sustain a powerful military in the future. In a narrower sense it could be true: if some specific social problem which creates a threat to Britain is removed, or if our money buys support for our interests. Writing cheques to a Rwandan government sending hit squads to London clearly doesn't fit the bill. And another example is aid to countries supporting Argentina's threat to our sovereignty over the Falklands. If we really want to use aid as a diplomatic tool, we have to be ready to cut the money off as well as hand it out.

Glyn Gaskarth wrote about this issue for the Wall Street Journal Europe last March.  He calculated that we give Argentina's regional allies millions of pounds every year:
Argentina has also rallied the support of regional allies. The Rio Group and Caricom issued a joint statement at their conference in Cancun, Mexico, in February 2010, indicating their support for "the legitimate rights of the republic of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute with Great Britain" relating to the "Malvinas question." The combined membership of these two groups amounts to 32 nations.

Britain could respond by cancelling British development assistance to the nations that signed this declaration. With a deficit approaching 12% of GDP per annum many Britons will wonder why British tax revenues are aiding countries that have pledged their support for the seizure of British territory and the displacement of its British citizens. £75 million is allocated by DFID to these countries each year. £48 million is given on a bilateral basis with £28 million from other U.K. sources. We'll see if Argentina makes up the difference.

If we don't want to have to fight another bloody war to defend the Islands, one thing we need to do is discourage the Argentinians from thinking that the world is behind their dodgy claim.  At the moment, there is no cost to countries in the region supporting them.  We aren't making it difficult for them to take a position that former Caribbean diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders has taken apart well in an article for the BBC.  Surely, if aid is about protecting our interests then a basic condition for receiving it should be that a country doesn't back a foreign power's claim on our territory and thousands of British citizens?

Shane Greer's claim that international aid is about improving our security is almost the opposite of the recent showcase of aid aimed at directly saving lives, the vaccination programmes launched by Bill Gates recently.  But most aid is directed at the much broader objective of encouraging development.  That is where we should look to focus cuts because government spending, even when paid for by someone else, isn't the route to prosperity and building a democratic culture.  Development spending feeds corruption and makes developing country governments less responsive to the needs of their people.  There would still be the money to do plenty of good work if the Government froze the international development budget and saved £3.7 billion a year.  There is a lot that could be cut.Shane Greer recently wrote that we should support International Aid spending because it is "about protecting Britain's interests", he goes on to narrow that down and says "it's about defence". At its broadest, this argument is so broad as to be pretty meaningless. Any policy decision that makes the world a better place could be argued in the same way. We could equally insist corporate tax cuts are a security measure as the boost they will provide to our GDP will improve our capacity to sustain a powerful military in the future. In a narrower sense it could be true: if some specific social problem which creates a threat to Britain is removed, or if our money buys support for our interests. Writing cheques to a Rwandan government sending hit squads to London clearly doesn't fit the bill. And another example is aid to countries supporting Argentina's threat to our sovereignty over the Falklands. If we really want to use aid as a diplomatic tool, we have to be ready to cut the money off as well as hand it out.

Glyn Gaskarth wrote about this issue for the Wall Street Journal Europe last March.  He calculated that we give Argentina's regional allies millions of pounds every year:
Argentina has also rallied the support of regional allies. The Rio Group and Caricom issued a joint statement at their conference in Cancun, Mexico, in February 2010, indicating their support for "the legitimate rights of the republic of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute with Great Britain" relating to the "Malvinas question." The combined membership of these two groups amounts to 32 nations.

Britain could respond by cancelling British development assistance to the nations that signed this declaration. With a deficit approaching 12% of GDP per annum many Britons will wonder why British tax revenues are aiding countries that have pledged their support for the seizure of British territory and the displacement of its British citizens. £75 million is allocated by DFID to these countries each year. £48 million is given on a bilateral basis with £28 million from other U.K. sources. We'll see if Argentina makes up the difference.

If we don't want to have to fight another bloody war to defend the Islands, one thing we need to do is discourage the Argentinians from thinking that the world is behind their dodgy claim.  At the moment, there is no cost to countries in the region supporting them.  We aren't making it difficult for them to take a position that former Caribbean diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders has taken apart well in an article for the BBC.  Surely, if aid is about protecting our interests then a basic condition for receiving it should be that a country doesn't back a foreign power's claim on our territory and thousands of British citizens?

Shane Greer's claim that international aid is about improving our security is almost the opposite of the recent showcase of aid aimed at directly saving lives, the vaccination programmes launched by Bill Gates recently.  But most aid is directed at the much broader objective of encouraging development.  That is where we should look to focus cuts because government spending, even when paid for by someone else, isn't the route to prosperity and building a democratic culture.  Development spending feeds corruption and makes developing country governments less responsive to the needs of their people.  There would still be the money to do plenty of good work if the Government froze the international development budget and saved £3.7 billion a year.  There is a lot that could be cut.

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