“Coming apart at the seams” is the first expression that came to mind when I learned of the goings on involving Priti Patel, now former British International Development Secretary, and what has become her precipitous exit from Theresa May’s ever weakening government.
When has May’s government not been coming apart at the seams, one may ask. What a beautiful rhetorical question.
The issue of concern in this post, though, is not at all the dishonesty faux pas that earned her the ire of Number 10, which at a cursory glance was unrelated to her international development area of responsibility.
Patel’s discourse where UK development aid is concerned has been that foreign aid is not the waste of precious financial resources that its critics charge it is.
As seen in the image below, when assailed by critics after stating her support for robust aid spending, Patel reiterated her conviction that:
- Helping those in need is the right thing to do and in our best interests.
- She pledged to crack down on contractors’ profiteering.
Now, in her absence, it seems reasonable to wonder what will become of these commitments.
Official development assistance (ODA), is defined as funds:
Administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective
For reference, in terms of total sums of money allocated to ODA, the UK ranked 3rd in the world in 2015 behind the US and Germany.
As for aid as a percentage of GDP, the UK places further down the rankings, but still comes in seventh with 0.71%, far ahead of other similarly rich countries like Canada (0.28%), France (0.37%), Japan (0.2%), Australia (0.31%) and Italy (0.19%).
Aid for trade is an idea also held in high regard by Patel.
Aid for trade definition:
Focusing oreign aid a developing country receives on improving its ability to trade more. (OECD)
This is, it would appear, a positive direction in which to guide development aid.
A Brexiteer, Patel had only been international development secretary since July 2016 in the wake of Brexit.
As such one can conclude that her no longer being at the helm of development policy may not change a great deal, as she may not necessarily have made her personal mark on the department yet anyway.
If anything here’s hoping that her yet to be named successor keeps up with her general line and that the positive trajectory of UK international development aid, kept at a strong level and untied – i.e. not given on condition that the money be used to buy UK goods or hire UK contractors – as it has more or less been since 2001 with some exceptions being noted as recently as 2016, keeps on going in that direction to the overall benefit of the countries to which the funds are allocated.
Pro-Brexit Patel raised some eyebrows when she proclaimed that the Her Majesty’s Government would use aid as leverage to carve out trade deals after leaving the EU. As this is reminiscent of tied aid, let’s hope that this concept sails off into the sunset along with Patel.