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John Simkin

The Politics of Foreign Aid

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Did you know the Adam Smith Institute, the ultra-rightwing lobby group, now receives more money from Britain's Department for International Development (DfID) than Liberia or Somalia, two of the poorest nations in the world? Last year the Adam Smith Institute received £7.6m in foreign aid. What do they do for their money? Well, the same thing they do for the British government. They advise on how to privatise government services. The advice they gave to the South African government led to 10 million having their water cut off. A similar number lost their electricity and another 2 million were evicted from their homes.

As George Monbiot points out in today’s Guardian this policy was pioneered by Clare Short. This passage from Monbiot’s article is especially powerful.

Aid has always been an instrument of foreign policy. During the cold war, it was used to buy the loyalties of states that might otherwise have crossed to the other side. Even today, the countries that receive the most money tend to be those that are of greatest strategic use to the donor nation, which is why the US gives more to Israel than it does to sub-Saharan Africa.

But foreign policy is also driven by commerce, and in particular by the needs of domestic exporters. Aid goes to countries that can buy our manufacturers' products. Sometimes it doesn't go to countries at all, but straight to the manufacturers. A US government website boasts that "the principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80% of the US Agency for International Development's contracts and grants go directly to American firms."

A doctor working in Gondar hospital in Ethiopia wrote to me recently to spell out what this means. The hospital has none of the basic textbooks on tropical diseases it needs. But it does have 21 copies of an 800-page volume called Aesthetic Facial Surgery and 24 volumes of a book called Opthalmic Pathology. There is no opthalmic pathologist in training in Ethiopia. The poorest nation on Earth, unsurprisingly, has no aesthetic plastic surgeons. The US had spent $2m on medical textbooks that American publishers hadn't been able to sell at home, called them aid and dumped them in Ethiopia.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,...1116854,00.html

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This is huge problem with aid. A few years ago Mark Thomas based one of his shows around this issue. Corporations actually make money by giving away useless goods as foreign aid. When these countries are desperate for basic medical supplies, we send over out of date contact lenses, or an obsolete dialasis machine, or other medical goods, which would be costly to destroy in Britain. Cheaper to give away in aid.

Why does a socialist government allow this practice to continue? As if it wasn't bad enough to be amongst the poorest nations on earth, mutinational-coporations compond this misery on almost comedic proportions.

All they want is basic supplies and we send Hormone Replacement tables. Thanks.

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In a way I agree with both statements but the dilemma is that the poorest nations of the world need foreign help. At the same time neither our governments nor corporations like Nestlé can be called charities. If they give they expect to get something back perferably some form and amount of profit - political in the form of compliance of the receiving countries or economic profit. The results are visible all around the globe: all countries have become part of the world market which is dominated by the industrial and capitalist countries and is based on the economic philosophy of capitalism. An individual, independent and/or indigenous economic and political development of the states in Africa, Asia is definitely not on the agenda of the donors. Examples for this can be found everywhere. But aid is needed in the poorest parts of the world. So where does this leave us as teachers?

I think one thing we and our students can do is to have a closer look at the economic policies and activities of the corporations in our countries and if necessary act (e.g. writing letters, articles, use the means of influence and particpation we have). I did a project on child labour with my year 9 and we wrote to Nestlé, Mars etc. to protest against child slavery and child labour on the cocoa plantations in Africa. Even though the class and I do not believe that they stopped child labour on their plantations and started paying life wages the corporations wrote long letters justifying their economic policies and we alerted quite some people to the problem of child labour and the possibilities of the fair trade movement.

The second thing is to put pressure on our governments especially when they are run by Socialdemocats whose programs used to be based on the idea of fairness and justice more than on guaranteeing big business a lot of money.

Another thing which helps is simply informing people about what is going on and publishing examples like the one mentioned in The Gaurdian article :rolleyes:

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Guest Alma

I have only one question...

Why do you think that being a teacher in a public school entitles you to try and endoctrinate your students?

There are a lot of reasons against foreign aid, and a lot of reasons not to help poor countries... I bet you don't teach those...

Child labor is a very good thing in some countries of the world and help raise the satndard of living. The do-gooders that try to forbid it only condemn more generations to being poor.. Fair trade never raised the standard of living. I have seen how do-gooders by their campaign stop projects which would have raised the standard of living, condemning the people to live on aid...

So again: why do you think that being a teacher entitles you to endoctrinate? I thought that it was teaching...

Maybe this is the reason why some needed skills of my students are so below par. Instead of being taught facts, theories, reading and writing in school they were told to write letters to corporations about fair trade...

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Guest Alma

I will add this...

For elementary school and high school I am the product of the French system... Well while I was there, no teacher would have dreamt to try and endoctrinate me or any student about any political or social problem. The same law that forbids religion in French school forbids also politics, which mean that a teacher couldn't try and endoctrinate a kid ...

Was what you describe always trues in English and German schools, or is it a new development?

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I will add this...

For elementary school and high school I am the product of the French system... Well while I was there, no teacher would have dreamt to try and endoctrinate me or any student about any political or social problem.  The same law that forbids religion in French school forbids also politics, which mean that a teacher couldn't try and endoctrinate a kid ...

Was what you describe always trues in English and German schools, or is it a new development?

Alma

I don't know what has made you write the above post. You might not agree with John Simkin's original post, but he is surely entitled to his opinion. As far as I can see, this forum encourages posters to contribute to a range of 'hot' political issues of the day.

I don't know any of my fellow History and Politics teachers who indoctrinate students. Instead, we encourage them to participate in lively debates and become free thinkers.

Learning how your country's political system operates (and, those of other countries for that matter too) is a vital part of the curriculum in Britain. I can see nothing wrong with gaining a clearer understanding of the role of Parliament, pressure groups and the stance of the parties to name but three areas studied in the latter years of secondary education in the UK. It is possible to have strong views as a teacher. John has strong views on a range of subjects, as do I. We don't always agree with each other, but I certainly don't think either of us is guilty of indoctrinating students. If an educator disagrees with you, does that necessarily make them guilty of indoctrinating their students?

Rant over. It might be a good idea if this thread gets back on topic. Apologies.

Edited by cd mckie

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Guest Alma

Why did I write it? It wasn't a rant, but a real question... I see that people want to "teach" their students about poverty, about "fair trade" etc. All these are not objective programs but really a projection of the teachers' opinion on the students. After all nobody has a good definition of poverty (absolute? relative?) And how to solve poverty is not easy... So how can you teach things that are unknown? Facts you can, theories, you can, but the unknown???

This was a genuine question... Because it reflects a genuine problem, which I have met not only in some of my students, but in my children's schools: because of it, I switched my children from the public to the private sector, and even then I had to work for them not to be endoctrinated... My students: it take a semester at least for some of them to realize what is objective and what is subjective and how you cannot mix both... The reason more often than not is what they were taught in school. So we take 3 months at least to undo the fuzzy thinking that was transmitted in schools! This is a waste of their time!

There is a fine line between teaching facts and trying to endoctrinate... And it is even finer when the subjects are minors in publicly funded schools... So I am genuinely interested in the answer... because this goes to the heart of what is teaching... I gave one exemple of France when I grew up (50s and 60s)... If you don't want to answer, I'll understand that you never thought about the peoblem!

Edited by Alma

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Guest Alma

Just to go on... Maybe these that teach fair trade etc. should read the Economist

http://www.economist.co.uk/opinion/display...tory_id=2499118

"HUNDREDS of millions of people in the world are forced to endure lives of abject poverty—poverty so acute that those fortunate enough to live in the United States, or Europe or the rich industrialised parts of Asia can scarcely comprehend its meaning. Surely there is no more commanding moral imperative for people in the West than to urge each other, and their governments, to bring relief to the world's poorest. And what a tragedy it is, therefore, that many of the kind souls who respond most eagerly to this imperative bring to the issue an analytical mindset that is almost wholly counterproductive. They are quite right, these champions of the world's poor, that poverty in an age of plenty is shameful and disgusting. But they are quite wrong to suppose, as so many of them do, that the rich enjoy their privileges at the expense of the poor—that poverty, in other words, is inseparable from a system, capitalism, that thrives on injustice. This way of thinking is not just false. It entrenches the very problem it purports to address.

Symptomatic of this mindset is the widespread and debilitating preoccupation with “global inequality”. Whenever the United Nations and its plethora of associated agencies opine about the scandal of world poverty, figures on inequality always pour forth. (Such figures, though, are always higher than the likely reality: see article) It is not bad enough, apparently, that enormous numbers of people have to subsist on less than a dollar a day. The claim that this makes in its own right on the compassion of the West for its fellow men is deemed, apparently, too puny. The real scandal, it seems, is that much of the world is vastly richer than that. The implication, and often enough the explicit claim, is that the one follows from the other: if only we in the West weren't so rich, so greedy for resources, so driven by material ambition—such purblind delinquent capitalists—the problem of global poverty would be half-way to being solved.

Certain ideas about equality are woven into the fabric of the liberal state, and quite inseparable from it: first and foremost, equality before the law. But equality before the law, and some other kinds of liberal equality, can be universally granted without infringing anybody's rights. Economic equality cannot. A concern to level economic outcomes must express itself as policies that advance one group's interests at the expense of another's. This puts political and ethical limits on how far the drive for economic equality ought to go. (Strictly practical limits, as well, since too noble a determination to take from the rich to give to the poor will end up impoverishing everyone.) It also means that perfect economic equality should never be embraced, even implicitly, as an ideal. Perfect economic equality is a nightmare: nothing short of a totalitarian tyranny could ever hope to achieve it.

The preoccupation bordering on obsession with economic equality that one so often encounters at gatherings of anti-globalists, in the corridors of aid agencies and in socialist redoubts in backward parts of the world reflects a “lump of income” fallacy. This remarkably tenacious misconception is that there is only so much global income to go around. If the United States is consuming $10 trillion worth of goods and services each year, that is $10 trillion worth of goods and services that Africa cannot consume.

But goods and services are not just lying around waiting to be grabbed by the greediest or most muscular countries. Market economics is not a zero-sum game. America consumes $10 trillion worth of goods and services each year because it produces (not counting the current-account deficit of 5% or so of the total) $10 trillion of goods and services each year. Africa could produce and consume a lot more without America producing and consuming one jot less. It so happens that the case for more aid, provided of course that it is well spent, is strong—but the industrialised countries do not need to become any less rich before Africa can become a lot less poor. The wealth of the wealthy is not part of the problem.

To believe otherwise, however, is very much part of the problem. For much of the 20th century the developing countries were held back by an adapted socialist ideology that put global injustice, inequality and victimhood front and centre. Guided by this ideology, governments relied on planning, state monopolies, punitive taxes, grandiose programmes of public spending, and all the other apparatus of applied economic justice. They also repudiated liberal international trade, because the terms of global commerce were deemed exploitative and unfair. Concessions (that is, permission to retain trade barriers) were sought and granted in successive negotiating rounds of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. A kind of equity was thus deemed to have been achieved. The only drawback was that the countries stayed poor..."

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I have only one question...

Why do you think that being a teacher in a public school entitles you to try and endoctrinate your students?

I am not sure I follow the logic of your arguments. How does providing a quotation from a newspaper show that I am trying to indoctrinate my students? Later in the thread you yourself have posted a long quotation from the Economist? Does that mean you indoctrinate your students? Of course it doesn’t. Maybe you do indoctrinate your students. However, I cannot tell that from you posting a quotation on this forum.

Several times on this forum you have said that Keynes is dead? Is that what you tell your students? If so, I think you are guilty of indoctrinating your students. Far better to ask your students the question: “Is Keynes dead?” They might well find he is alive and living in Europe. (For example, the fall in the unemployment rate in Britain under the present government is due to the increased number of people being employed by the state.)

Your attacks on me for indoctrinating my students sounds like you are suffering from what Freud called projection.

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Guest Alma

I posted an economist quote in answer to yours... Let me ask you: would you provide the Economist quote to your students? To me it isn't important: I know how to find articles, and I know how to see the indoctrination in a newspaper article. But students are quite different. They don't know, and generally takes what a teacher says as THE truth. Do you give both sides to your students, or as quoted above you say the "right-wing" Adam Smith institute says (giggle, giggle)...

Or as Ulrike said " think one thing we and our students can do is to have a closer look at the economic policies and activities of the corporations in our countries and if necessary act (e.g. writing letters, articles, use the means of influence and particpation we have)." Well what does she teach, does she know that so-called sweatshops enrich countries, that foreign corporations pay a higher wage than local, or all she teaches is how bad they are!

Again, I have seen the result upstream and it is waste to have students unlearn what they were told in high schools... Quite a few of them after a while are quite outraged at this...

As to Keynes being dead, of course this is what we teach our students as most of what he said is based on unsound data... If you still teach Keynes, you ignore about 30 years of empirical studies in economics... This is called teaching?

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As to Keynes being dead, of course this is what we teach our students as most of what he said is based on unsound data...  If you still teach Keynes, you ignore about 30 years of empirical studies in economics... This is called teaching?

Alma, If you are not capbale of seeing the irony in your wild accusations of "indocrination" when placed against your hopelessly biased final paragraph (quoted above), then it is truly extraordinary.

You appear to be teaching your own "certainties" to your students (if indeed you are a teacher) - indocrination by any other name surely.

I prefer to empower my own students to think about controversial issues for themselves.

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If you still teach Keynes, you ignore about 30 years of empirical studies in economics... This is called teaching?

Strange...I didn't know that empirical studies were describing the reality. When you teach (if so...) M. Friedman, M. Thatcher's model, are you saying that he is right? If so, are you calling that teaching?

My teachers taught me that the reality is just what you are thinking with your own knwoledge, your feelings, your political belonging...and they were french...

Furthermore, John has strong opinions but, even if I do not agree everytime, his contributions are improving my knowledge. They make me thinking differently. You just make me feel sad.

Anyway, In France, many empirical studies are made on Keynes and the need to re-think its theories.

You're thinking global we are thinking human. You are thinking self suficience, inequalities, we are speaking about something else that you will never be able to reach (humanity?).

Last thing, not to try to convince you (only people like you are thinking that they are everytime right), Fair Trade is not only theory but it really exists (in a small scale for sure but still).

Go outside, travel a bit (not in hotels or conferences but speak to real people for once) and stop hidding you behind one economical model.

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Guest Alma

Models don't describe reality but must be confronted to them... The truth of the matter that all that was supposed to be the "contribution" of the General Theory has been found to be false... No liquidity trap, no effect to increased government spending... You may for instance try to learn about Rational Expectations, the natural rate of unemployment etc. etc...

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