The Times (paywall) reports (is Murdoch turning the screw to remind Theresa May not to hinder his Sky bid?) that the Tories have been ‘dumping’ billions of pounds in aid into shady World Bank funds, to sit there unused indefinitely – in order to keep up the appearance of meeting the government’s commitment to donating 0.7% of the UK’s GDP (gross domestic product, a rough measure of the nation’s ‘income’) in foreign aid, while ignoring its purpose and effectiveness.
According to the Times, at least £9 billion has been transferred like this over the past 5 years. Rather than helping developing countries, the money, which is spread across over 200 different bank accounts, simply sits there – doing nothing except rack up World Bank ‘administration fees’.
International Development Secretary Priti Patel’s only qualification for her job appears to be the fact that she had previously wanted to get rid of it and the funding it oversees. This seems to be the standard Tory qualification for any ministerial role that is supposed to help people – Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt infamously wrote a book, before becoming Health Secretary, that called for the abolition of the ’60-year-old mistake’ of the NHS.
That’s not their only resemblance. Just as Ms Patel and her predecessors seem happy to waste huge amounts of cash on maintaining appearances, Hunt and his boss are perfectly prepared to claim to be putting more cash into the NHS while undermining its staff, selling off the profitable bits and sucking money out via the back door by cutting social care funding until it’s a hollowed-out shell causing the NHS to fall apart.
Ms Patel claims she is ‘reforming’ international aid – and appears to be doing so by funnelling money to trade deals instead. And of course by letting billions of pounds gather dust in opaque overseas bank accounts. In using money meant for those in need to line the pockets of big business, or simply squandering it, she is again following in the fine tradition of not only Jeremy Hunt and his predecessor Andrew Lansley, but of Tory Work and Pensions and Education Secretaries as well.
Clearly, to a Tory, maintaining the appearance of doing something is far more important than actually doing it – especially if it helps you put cash into the bank accounts of your backers and allies and ideally while you get rid of the very thing you’re supposed to be looking after. If you hear Tories say ‘reform’, run for cover – or better yet, get the pitchforks out.
Priti Patel faces questions today from MPs over how aid money is spent. It is to be hoped that the question will be included about what these vast sums of wasted money say about so-called Tory ‘economic competence’ and their complete and callous disregard for the well-being of the people they claim to be helping, vomit-inducing hypocrisy about the ‘just about managing’ from her boss notwithstanding.