Stop ped­dling myths on for­eign aid, min­is­ter tells crit­ics

The Guardian - - FRONT PAGE - Tracy McVeigh Mogadishu

Bri­tain’s for­eign aid min­is­ter, Priti Pa­tel, has told the Guardian she is fed up with the myth that all she does is sit at her desk “writ­ing cheques to North Korea”, in her most ro­bust re­sponse yet to crit­ics of the for­eign aid budget.

Dur­ing a sur­prise visit to drought­stricken east Africa at the week­end, Pa­tel, the sec­re­tary of state for in­ter­na­tional devel­op­ment, an­nounced a new £60m pack­age for So­ma­lia, and £30m for Ethiopia, say­ing the sharp rise in the num­bers of peo­ple need­ing food, wa­ter and shel­ter meant it was crit­i­cal to stop the food cri­sis be­com­ing the kind of famine that killed a quar­ter of a mil­lion peo­ple in So­ma­lia in 2011.

Pa­tel said: “The truth is that UK devel­op­ment in­flu­ence is mas­sive, greater than our for­eign pol­icy, and this isn’t just about money. Bri­tain is sav­ing lives and bring­ing sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity, and that’s good for our econ­omy and for what comes to our doorstep.” She said Bri­tain could take much of the credit for avert­ing a huge loss of life in east Africa so far this year.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view, her first since last week’s cabi­net reshuf­fle, which saw her reap­pointed to the role, Pa­tel said it was the UK’s in­vest­ment in “re­silience” and the early lead taken by the Depart­ment for In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment – which put £110m into So­ma­lia in Jan­uary and per­suaded the World Bank to add an­other £40m – that had kept the death rate down.

“Bri­tain can stand tall on this one. Peo­ple need feed­ing and peo­ple need shel­ter, peo­ple are dy­ing right now from cholera and measles. Famine is tragic, I can­not find the words to de­scribe how ap­palling the sit­u­a­tion in South Su­dan is, chil­dren wast­ing away, chil­dren in camps alone be­cause their par­ents have been mur­dered. I was the one who was on the phone to UN sec­re­tary gen­eral [An­tónio] Guter­res in Jan­uary, call­ing the UN out on this, and the [aid] agen­cies. We have to be in­te­grated on this,” she said.

“My pri­or­ity is sav­ing lives but in devel­op­ment that doesn’t just mean putting food in mouths, that means in­vest­ing in jobs and peace and sta­bil­ity, in ed­u­ca­tion.”

Pa­tel’s ten­ure has seen the depart­ment dogged by crit­i­cism from the right over pro­grammes, waste and spend­ing, and snip­ing from those op­posed to the aid com­mit­ment of 0.7% of GDP, a UN tar­get ringfenced by David Cameron. It has also come un­der at­tack from the left for ap­pear­ing to “share” its budget with other de­part­ments, with an al­leged lack of trans­parency.

“We have been in goal de­fence,” said

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.