International Development must surely be a Ministry which any aspiring cabinet member would view positively.
A Department where there are plenty of opportunities for easy publicity and there is money to be disbursed, with fewer of the potential banana skins of the other departments.
But the announcement that the coalition are to ‘ring fence’ spending on this department should not prevent Liberals from questioning the current minister, Andrew Mitchell, and the orthodoxy concerning how the budget is spent.
One thing which unites Lib Dems of all stripes is a commitment to decentralisation, yet the framework for distributing the International Development budget is skewed towards centralisation.
The Department for International Development will provide the Chinese government with £170m in direct aid this year and also extensively provides aid to the Indian government.
This article does not seek to question whether there are people in China and India who are in need of aid. Eight Indian states after all have more chronically poor people living in them than there are in all of Africa.
But at the same time as we fund these countries’ governments, the people suffer: in China through that country’s colonial and neo-colonial adventures, and in India through the governments expansion of its military industrial complex and its development of nuclear weapons and a space programme.
If it were a British government spending money on such vanity projects at a time when 60% of the population relied on NGOs for health and education, the Lib Dems would be the first to criticise how central government was spending the money.
But it’s not merely a case of redirecting funds from central government to NGOs. DfiD should seek to develop relationships with regional authorities in these countries, and also to encourage micro financing to create a situation where the people themselves have more control and power over how their aid is spent.