Latest posts on Christian Aid

Why 'Christian Hate?'? An introduction to the blog

Places Christians shouldn't go A quick tour of Christian Hate?'s case against Christian Aid

Christians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Read all my posts on this topic

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pukka sahibs

Here in Germany the commercial Advent has been with us since 1 September, when the traditional Christmas calorie bombs - Stollen, Lebkuchen and Spekulatius biscuits - appeared in the supermarkets. Hence the following question is already seasonal.

Would you buy your Christmas cards from a company responsible for supplying poisoned water to 70 million people?

No? Would it make any difference, then, if it was not a company but a development agency like, for instance, UNICEF?

Theodore Dalrymple ponders the case of the well-digging programme in Bangladesh which has exposed up to half of the country's population to arsenic poisoning (hat tip: Laban). He offers the provocative thesis that aid workers are today's colonial administrators - and certainly their level of accountability to the "natives"* when they screw up would seem to be comparable. Or, indeed, their level of accountability to anyone. Check out any big aid charity's annual report, and see if you can find any attempt at quantifying the cost-effectiveness of its work in terms of the number of people it has permanently lifted out of poverty.

If you think that I take no prisoners, as a loyal reader has commented, how about this from Dalrymple:-

'As I quickly discovered in Tanzania and elsewhere, foreign aid offers a lucrative career in good working conditions to middle class people of the developed world who want a little adventure in their lives, and who would once have been colonial officers; and it offers tempting opportunities for malversation of funds to their bureaucratic counterparts in the Third World. This symbiosis is the natural consequence of asking precisely the wrong question: not where wealth comes from, but where poverty comes from.

'As far as I am aware, not a single country has ever been lifted from poverty to prosperity by foreign aid, though no doubt many individuals have been so lifted. I do not mean any personal asperity when I remark that, when Professor Graziano told The Lancet that working with the multidisciplinary team which is trying to solve the arsenic poisoning of Bangladesh was

one of the most wonderful experiences of my life,

'I could not help but think of that line from the old Flanders and Swann song to the effect that

It all makes work for the working man to do.'

*Dear reader, I apologize for the quotation marks, and do assure you that I credit you with enough intelligence to understand that the use of this word is ironic. However, I feel I should err on the side of caution just in case I ever want to run for Mayor of London.

No comments: