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Sunday, June 06, 2010

When giving is wrong

I very rarely give to beggars. I do buy the Big Issue when I'm in town. And I don't approve of our government giving aid to African countries.
Call me callous. I don't care.
If I give money to a drunk he will spend it on drink. If I buy a copy of the Big Issue I'm helping someone help themselves.

When the Iron Curtain came down and western agencies visited Romania they were appalled at the numbers of children abandoned in squalor in state run asylums and homes. Their understandable reaction was to try and rescue these poor unfortunate children and make their lives more comfortable. We all contributed to aid convoys in our local churches and off they went. On a personal note I began my recording career by making an album to be sold to help a missionary couple in the far east of Poland. We gathered goods and money and sent our friends off, full of hope that our efforts would make a difference. One year later and our friends were back,hurt and dissillusioned. None of the goods that we'd donated made it through to the people they were intended to help. None.The local church leader claimed them for himself and sold them and kept the money. That's the way it is.
When the Romanians saw the aid effort to help the orphans, were they shamed into doing more? Did they see that this was something they should have been doing?
They left the British and Irish charity workers to it. The orphans were now our problem.
Giving aid never achieves the intended aim.
I read this article in the Wall Street Journal recently

The author, Dambisa Moyo makes a strong case that giving aid to Africa actually ends up hurting rather than helping them.
He writes-
"Giving alms to Africa remains one of the biggest ideas of our time -- millions march for it, governments are judged by it, celebrities proselytize the need for it. Calls for more aid to Africa are growing louder, with advocates pushing for doubling the roughly $50 billion of international assistance that already goes to Africa each year.

Yet evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that aid to Africa has made the poor poorer, and the growth slower. The insidious aid culture has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency markets and more unattractive to higher-quality investment. It's increased the risk of civil conflict and unrest (the fact that over 60% of sub-Saharan Africa's population is under the age of 24 with few economic prospects is a cause for worry). Aid is an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster."

There is such a thing as the Law of Unintended Consequences. The fact that our new government has "ring fenced" our overseas aid budget is worrying. One could be forgiven for thinking that they want the desperate plight of ordinary Africans to continue.

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