Security, cohesion, integration, solidarity: all are intangible. But we pay – literally – to gain them. Why single out self-government?
Philip Hammond may have coined the phrase – an appropriate use of the term, in this case. “No-one voted to become poorer or less secure,” he told the Conservative Party Conference in 2016, less than six months after the Brexit referendum vote. As others have taken those words up, the last three have tended to drop off it. But was he right?
Obviously, even as senior a Minister as the Chancellor cannot have read the minds of all 17 million plus of those who backed Leave – the largest number of people who have ever voted for anything in a British poll. But let us leave the point there, and turn to his own department’s forecasts. The Treasury’s median long-term estimate is that a WTO-based outcome would reduce cumulative growth over 15 years from about 25 per cent to about 17 per cent. In other words, GDP would, under this scenario, be eight per cent lower than it would otherwise be. It would rise more slowly, not fall.
So even the Treasury, the high temple of Remain, doesn’t expect us to become poorer – but rather, less rich than we would otherwise be. You may counter that this lost growth would mean lost wages and tax receipts, lower spending and higher tax. Or that some short-term forecasts do suggest that we will become poorer this year in the event of No Deal. (The CBI is pushing a very-worst-case scenario today.)
We could come back by pouring cold water on all such forecasts, starting with George Osborne’s referendum campaign projections of an “immediate” recession, half a million more people unemployed, and house prices 18 per cent lower than they would otherwise have been. Instead, the economy grew, unemployment fell and house prices rose. But rather than vanish into a statistical snowstorm, we ask our readers to view Hammond’s statement from a different angle – two angles, to be precise.
The first is from the Left. Trident costs the taxpayer roughly £2 billion a year. That money could instead be spent on tax cuts or public services. Very many on the Left (and some on the Right) argue that it should be. They say that we don’t use Trident, wouldn’t ever use it, shouldn’t ever use it. The cash should go instead on schools or hospitals or benefits or childcare.
Next, mull an argument from the Right. Overseas aid comes at a price of about £14 billion annually. Again, that money could be spent on public services or tax cuts – or, the Right being the Right, on debt repayment. A lot of people on it – and a sprinkling on the Left – hold that development aid is wasted or stolen and perverts incentives and is subject to the law of unintended consequences.
Now stand back from the fray, and ponder a stubborn fact. Voters consistently back Trident and aid. No, that’s not quite right. Rather, put it this way: voters consistently return governments committed to both. Then turn to another subject to illustrate the same point.
Pro-migration campaigners argue that it makes us richer – both overall and per head. Others dispute that claim. Let’s assume for the sake of the argument that those campaigners are right. Even if every single voter could be persuaded of this, there is reason to doubt that all of them would come round to wanting higher rather than lower migration. Very many would believe that there would still be costs in some places to higher immigration – in terms, for example, of pressure on housing. And then there is the i-word: integration.
At which point, it is worth standing back from Hammond’s statement, and asking not whether he was right or wrong, but what he actually meant – or implied. Who is the “no-one” in question? Who are those to whom he glancingly refers? Obviously, the British people. But that’s a term which invites further thought.
In one sense, the British people is a single entity; in another, it is lots of groups of people, breaking down in turn into families and individuals. Many of them help to pay for others. Older people tend not to use schools, but they help to fund them. Younger people use the NHS less than older ones, but they help to pay for it. Londoners, some say, subsidise the rest of the UK. And so on and so forth.
Readers will see where all this is going. At each election, we vote to “make ourselves poorer”, in the sense of becoming less rich than we otherwise would be. We plump for Trident because we worry about our security (to reprise the Chancellor’s word); or for lower migration because we think it will mean more cohesion, or for overseas aid because of solidarity with those who suffer. We vote to fund public services we don’t use and parts of the country we don’t live in. Security, cohesion, solidarity: these are intangibles. They can’t be touched or smelled or tasted – seen or heard. They may lead to material gains, but they are not material themselves. None comes with a price tag, but all have value.
Let’s end by illustrating the point. John Hume was fond of quoting his anti-sectarian father, who used to say: “you can’t eat a flag”. True – and anyone who has tried to do so has presumably been disappointed. But the reverse also applies. No-one, we suspect, has ever sung: “I vow to thee, my breakfast.” Those intangibles – such as self-government, to cite another – matter. From one point of view, the desire for the last is a form of solidarity or even for, to use a more EU-ish word, subsidiarity.
You can properly reply that self-government and patriotism aren’t the same thing, or even that they don’t overlap at all. So be it. What you can’t do, this site believes, is claim that Brexit alone, uniquely, exceptionally, will make us less rich than we otherwise would be (if it does so at all). By commission, by omission, in the ballot booth and out of it, we opt to do this all the time – almost without noticing.
Ultimately, it is economic growth not traditional aid which will support the growing populations of the developing world.
Nicholas Daniels is a Government relations strategy adviser. He is based in Nairobi and is currently working on a more comprehensive study of fresh ideas for UK aid, to be published soon.
In his 1984 Christmas pop song about Ethiopia’s famine, Bob Geldof highlighted the despairing plight of millions with the powerful line ‘Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?’ Since then UK overseas aid has become the gift that keeps on giving, and is expected to reach £14 billion next year.
Many of the challenges Africa experienced in the 1980s still exist. In the agricultural sector, where I’ve worked for the last eight years extending loans to smallholder farmers, food insecurity is a problem which paradoxically affects the continent’s farmers. Smallholders struggle to feed their own families because of depleted soils and outdated methods.
It was meant to be so different. Tony Blair established the Department for International Development (Dfid) more than twenty years ago to eliminate poverty. In 2015 David Cameron enshrined in law our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid. Unfortunately, for too long our strategy has been to treat people in developing countries as recipients of charity, rather than economic actors living in a globalised world.
UK aid policy often ignores projections that Africa’s population could more than double to 2.6 billion by 2050. Research shows Nigeria overtaking the United States of America to become the third most populous country on the planet with 400 million people. The Democratic Republic of the Congo – currently averaging 6.3 births per woman – will grow to more than 200 million.
We must rethink our approach to aid spending if Africa is ever going to create the jobs and economic growth needed to support these populations. Failure to do so could result in significantly larger migration flows into Europe as increasingly desperate people risk their lives in search of jobs.
Our aid strategy needs to be more bold, radical, and disruptive. The 0.7 per cent commitment is an opportunity to double down on the private sectors in developing countries – so often constrained by high interest rates and skills shortages – with investments in the form of equity, loans, and debt guarantees, backed by British commercial expertise. We should urge foreign governments to privatise state-run utilities and promote new gig economy platforms.
British companies are currently engaged in constructing Uganda’s second international airport. British entrepreneurs have pioneered a hugely successful chain of coffee shops in Kenya and a low-cost airline in Tanzania. Across Africa, innovators from the UK are leading the way in dynamic new businesses spanning solar energy, education, telecoms, agriculture, and manufacturing. As my American development colleagues would say, we must ‘go big or go home.’
To achieve this, Dfid could be merged with an enlarged Department for International Trade and Investment, and a greater proportion of our aid budget given to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to deliver the soft-power diplomacy required to support UK interests. Aid should be less about grants or technical assistance, and more about hard cash which makes developing economies competitive, and generates a financial return on investment.
Critics of this approach will argue that aid must be directed towards the poorest of the poor. If the UK is not at the forefront of combatting Ebola or funding the distribution of mosquito nets, we will have on our conscience the deaths and suffering of millions of innocent people in Africa and around the world.
My view is that rapid population growth and endemic economic hardship demonstrate the failure of conventional Dfid thinking. We need to recognise that aid will never be enough to mitigate the horrendous challenges felt by the world’s poorest. Moreover, the governments of developing countries have to step up and be held accountable by their people for delivering public services.
I accept that some aid money should be kept aside for urgent humanitarian crises. But if we truly believe in eliminating poverty, the UK will focus on promoting private sector competition and creating jobs as the most effective way to achieve this, instead of social welfare programs which prolong the rule of bad governments.
Africa is no longer the despairing continent Geldof illustrated three decades ago. In future, I believe Nigeria will become a key destination for UK exports; Ethiopia will supply our fruit and vegetables; Kenya will have a large and highly educated entrepreneurial middle class.
Penny Mordaunt has consistently argued how aid – when linked to trade and investment – accords with our values as a country and vision for the UK as a global trading nation. Economic growth is the greatest gift we can give the developing world this Christmas. Future policy should be determined to deliver.
It is an attractive destination, with a friendly population and a fascinating history, but it has been badly let down by officialdom.
The breath-taking view during the last half-mile of the short taxi ride from St Helena Airport to the heart of Jamestown is one that I will never tire of admiring.
On each side of a steep valley are cliffs that soar to more than 600 feet while, at the bottom, the streets of the island’s capital are full of charm and character as they lead down to the sea. Beyond the promenade are scores of boats of all shapes and sizes bobbing in the usually sheltered waters of James Bay.
The view is also a signal that I am about to meet arguably the world’s friendliest local people: “Saints”, as the islanders like to be known, are warm-hearted, hard-working and family-orientated.
However, last weekend, on my third visit to the island, the numerous locals that I met were not their usual cheery selves. In fact, I detected an overwhelming mood of weariness, frustration and, at times, even burning anger.
“The island is at an all-time low. There are no tourists, no money. Morale is not good: everyone is feeling the pinch and hurting,” said Patrick Henry, 53, who along with his partner, Lucille Johnson, 44, owns V2 Taxis, which I use for my shuttles to and from the airport.
They, like other islanders, invested their life-savings into businesses on the basis that the new airport, built with £285 million of taxpayers’ money and which finally opened to passenger flights 14 months ago, would bring unprecedented numbers of visitors to St Helena and, with them, economic prosperity.
The couple now have three businesses: an 18-vehicle taxi fleet, a pub, and a café – but not enough customers to justify the “huge amount of money” that they have invested.
St Helena, about a third the size of the Isle of Wight, is a British Overseas Territory that became famous as the location where Napoleon Bonaparte, the defeated French emperor, spent the majority of his exile until his death in 1821.
As a volcanic island that erupted out of the South Atlantic 15 million years ago, it is one of the most remote places on earth: some 1,200 miles from the African mainland and 1,800 miles from Brazil.
The island has a population of less than 4,500 who earn an average wage of little more than £7,000 a year. Yet inflation is running at 4.1 per cent and the average cost of goods and services are said to be 14 per cent more than in the UK due to the additional bills that remoteness brings.
The airport was built to replace the Royal Mail Ship St Helena as it reached the end of its life. The “RMS”, as it was affectionately known, took five days to reach the island from Cape Town. However, after various flight safety issues, St Helena now has only one regular weekend return flight from Johannesburg, with each flight capable of carrying less than 100 passengers.
The cost of a return economy flight from Johannesburg is typically around £900 and many flights have been delayed, in some cases by several days, due to weather problems. Several potential tourists have even returned home with bills running to thousands of pounds for flights and hotels without ever landing on the island.
I first came to St Helena with my parents when I was a toddler, while I came for the second time in January 2017. The purpose of my third visit, last weekend, was to speak to those who help to run the island, those entrepreneurs investing in it and also the man – and woman – on the street.
The biggest inward investor on St Helena is Hazel Wilmot (pictured, below), who has spent nearly £3 million buying and renovating both the Consulate Hotel in Jamestown and a 17-acre farm inland.
Her spending was based on the anticipation that the airport, originally due to open in 2012 before the opening was delayed twice more for safety reasons, would result in riches for entrepreneurs. Yet, in the run-up to the airport’s actual opening in October last year, Ms Wilmot says she went nine months without a single overnight paying guest.
Ms Wilmot, 62, was reduced to tears as she told me of her exasperation during her decade on the island after moving there from Botswana. She says her losses since December 2008 total more than £700,000 – an average of over £70,000 a year.
“Tourism has not generated the income that we were expecting or that we were promised,” she said, adding that islanders were even encouraged to invest long after the Department for International Development (DFID) and the St Helena Government (SHG) learned that strong unpredictable winds – known as “wind shear” – would endanger flights.
“We are basically being told ‘hang in there, sweetheart, and it’ll come right’. Well, I am surprised a few of us haven’t hung ourselves never mind just hung in there.”
Before the airport opened, official figures predicted that the tourist numbers to the island would increase from around 1,000 a year to 29,000 a year by 2042. “It’s completely pie in the sky,” said Ms Wilmot.
“The only way I am going anywhere is if you carry me out in a box,” she added. “But I am finding it very difficult at the moment.” Then the tears flowed before she added: “I don’t see any end in sight.” She now plans to seek a judicial review in the UK in order to seek compensation from DFID for its alleged incompetence and deceit.
Lyn Thomas (pictured, below), who has lived on the island all her life, is married with a stepson, two daughters and seven grandchildren. Along with Larry, her husband, and Tara, her daughter, Mrs Thomas, aged 54, owns two companies that operate seven shops and employ 40 people.
She told me of her frustration at waiting seven years for the SHG and the Environment and Natural Resources Directorate (ENRD) to make a decision on whether she can buy or lease a plot of land to build a retail centre that incorporates activities for young children and teenagers.
“I have gone round and round and round. If you don’t move your business forward, it starts to slide back. It’s the frustration of begging and kowtowing, and I am not very good at it. There are times when I lose my patience, but I will carry on,” said Mrs Thomas.
Mrs Thomas, who was formerly the Chairman of the Bank of St Helena, added: “Sometimes subsidies breed inefficiency so I don’t l like the word ‘subsidy’ but people can need a hand up to get fully functioning and financially viable.”
Many people on and off the island are desperate to have a direct flight link to Europe, in general, and the UK, in particular. Atlantic Star Airlines, headed by British pilot Richard Brown, remains keen to operate such a service but without public and/or private funds, flights to and from the island would be too costly. Furthermore, Atlantic Star could only operate such a service with permission from SHG, which, for now at least, has only one flight contract, with South African operator Airlink.
Gregory Cairns-Wicks, 54, is a married man with two children, who has lived on the island for 36 years. He owns and/or runs a 275-acre beef farm, three shops, and an importing business.
Mr Cairns-Wicks told me that in recent times taxes, import duties and freight charges have all increased, while targeted subsidies to the island have fallen and wages remain low.
“One way or another, things are not looking good,” he said, adding that some islanders are looking to move to the Falkland Islands, Ascension Island and the UK in search of higher wages and the means of eventually being able to afford to build their own house on St Helena. “When we lose young families, then that is a significant knock to the economy,” he said.
He said that unreliable flights meant that tourists, who have a choice of any number of destinations around the world, would not risk booking holidays on St Helena. “Unless something technical can be done with the airport to improve reliability, it’s going to be very, very difficult to build the economy – like trying to light a fire with a box of wet matches.”
Basil George (pictured, below), 82, a former teacher and the island’s former Director of Education – who now runs a tour company, Magma Way, with his son Kevin – is full of knowledge about the island. He believes that St Helena needs to maximise its resources, including its fishing and farming, while also diversifying.
“It’s a hugely difficult period. We need to manage this, going through this very difficult transition,” he told me. “The status we have as a self-governing territory and with a very small population really puts us in an impossible situation.”
During my two-day visit, I was a guest at Mantis St Helena, situated a stone’s throw from the sea in the heart of Jamestown. The hotel is stylish, well-run and well-staffed. In short, it has everything that anyone could wish from a 30-room, four-star boutique hotel except…a steady flow of guests.
The hotel, which opened its doors earlier this year, is managed, rather than owned, by the Mantis Collection, and is heavily subsided by SHG which saw the need to get an international-standard hotel on St Helena if it was to attract wealthy tourists. Yet, due to the island’s problems, the hotel’s occupancy rate hovers at between 15 and 20 per cent.
The Mantis Collection, founded and chaired by Adrian Gardiner, a successful South African businessman, had originally hoped to expand its interest on the island but now, like many other businesses, its confidence is waning in that the current airlift is not conducive to a successful tourist destination or other business opportunities.
DFID and SHG must never forget that international investors can look to operate anywhere in the world and so St Helena’s rulers must offer them assistance, encouragement and hope.
Already massive investment opportunities on the island have been missed. I am told that Shelco (the St Helena Leisure Corporation Ltd,) whose former chairman Sir Nigel Thompson like me has links to the island going back more than half a century, “lost the will to live” over countless delays to the first phase of its £120 million hotel and country club development for the island.
As a result, it recently sold a controlling stake in the company to Paul O’Sullivan, a successful businessman who also has ambitious development leisure plans for the island but who will never be foolish enough to sink in tens of millions of pounds of investment until the airport and other problems have been sorted out.
Mr O’Sullivan, who is the CEO of St Helena Corporation Plc, has 40 years’ experience as a pilot and therefore knows a thing or two about “next gen” (next generation) navigational aids.
He has told me that he believes St Helena’s current GBAS (Ground Based Augmentation System), fitted at a cost of some £2 million, can be adapted to enable planes to land on the island in most weathers. “It’s a major issue and if it’s not fixed soon, it will consign the island to a bleak future,” he said.
Mr O’Sullivan, who visited the island earlier this month, remains confident that, with a positive approach from DFID and SHG, he will invest more heavily on the island, and he has already built a show house there. “We did not go there to ‘loot and scoot’, we’re in for the long-haul and prepared to be patient,” he said.
Everyone on the island has thoughts on how it could prosper. Mike Olsson is the owner of the St Helena Independent newspaper which, along with Saint FM radio station, I sponsor to ensure its editorial independence. He believes that improved banking facilities and obtaining a new fibre-optic cable link are essential to the island’s future prosperity. There are moves to ensure that a fibre-optic cable running from South Africa to Brazil, which would provide super-fast internet speeds and other benefits, can branch off to St Helena.
Mr Olsson also favours “residential tourism”, particularly from northern Europe, so that long-term visitors during the northern hemisphere’s winter would not be so dependent on the weekly flights. Such a move, with numerous tourists staying on the island for months rather than days, would, however, require a big increase in medical facilities for the elderly
During my visit, Governor Lisa Honan, who has been widely praised for improving SHG’s transparency, was off-island due to work commitments. However, I spoke with others who help to run the island and manage its economy.
Lawson Henry (pictured, below), who has been a St Helena councillor for five years, is a member of the five-strong island Cabinet and chairs the economic and development committee.
“St Helena has real potential to be a tourist destination,” he told me. “It is only a small island but the diversity of what we have to offer could make us a good tourist destination.”
However, Councillor Henry was deeply critical of the decision to have the current airport “hub” – for flights to and from St Helena – in Johannesburg rather than Cape Town, where Saints have strong historic links and where tourists feel safer and keener to visit than crime-ridden Johannesburg. “We have to have a re-look at the hub and people have to be able to reach the island from different points of origin…If we don’t make these interventions, I think tourists will eventually stop coming.”
Councillor Henry added: “This has been a huge investment by the British taxpayer in this island and if the British Government doesn’t support us in doing some really fundamental other things, then it is not going to work.”
“There is a lot of frustration here on the island at this time…And there is a lot of pain in the community because of the state of our economy…There is a real lack of understanding of how a small isolated island has to operate.”
In recent years, St Helena has received around £30 million a year in Government subsidies from DFID but the ambition remains that, with a vibrant economy that includes a strong tourism sector, the island eventually moves towards self-sufficiency.
Dr Dawn Cranswick, who is Chief Executive for Economic Development, told me that it was “disappointing” to hear that entrepreneurs on and off the island had criticised the official support they received.
Little more than three months into her role, it would be unfair to expect her to come up with overnight solutions to problems that others have taken years or even decades to try to solve.
Dr Cranswick (pictured, right) said: “I think that as time goes on all of us, including tourism businesses on and off the island, will develop a stronger knowledge and understanding about how unique, niche destinations such as St Helena emerge as tourism destinations.
“I think there is a lot of very good work that has been done already but of course there is more to do. We now have around 50 international tour operators marketing the island. One of the things we are learning is the time it takes for a tour operator to come to know a destination and get it into their plans.”
Amid the disappointments and the criticisms, it should never be forgotten what an attractive destination St Helena is for the more adventurous traveller or how easy it is, once you have finally reached the island, to get around it and see the wonderful sights. St Helena offers an attractive climate, a rich history, stunning scenery, a unique wildlife, great walking, friendly locals and much more besides.
I broke off from my interviews for a couple of hours one afternoon to tour the island and remind myself of all it has to offer. I visited Longwood House, where Napoleon lived for six years. It is also the location where, aged just two, I fell into the goldfish pond (pictured, below) fully clothed while I was with my parents en route to Nyasaland, now Malawi.
I also visited Jacob’s Ladder (pictured, right) where, during the same visit in 1948, my late father Eric, then a fit young man, carried me up all 699 steps that had been cut into the hillside by the military in 1829 so that ammunition and other supplies could be carried up the cliff.
Furthermore, I was invited to Plantation House, the Governor’s official residence, where I had an interesting off-the-record conversation with Acting Governor Louise MacMorran before seeing Jonathan, the giant Seychelles tortoise. At 186 years old, he is the oldest tortoise in the world and possibly the oldest land animal, too.
I have no intention of investing in St Helena. My involvement is, by writing a lengthy blog and making a short film on my visit, to make a small contribution towards a greater understanding of the island’s problems and perhaps even to help find some solutions.
I hope that Saints and others will feel that my interviews with such a wide-range of islanders, rulers and investors leave me equipped to offer a few thoughts for others to ponder.
There is no doubt that insufficient research, including test flights, went into the airport before it was built, but the island will never have a second airport so it now needs to make the most of what it has. My well-informed contacts tell me that “wind shear” and cross winds are not, in fact, the major problem.
Instead, with an airport built at nearly 1,000 feet (pictured, below), it is low cloud that is largely causing the flight delays. I am no aviation expert but DFID, as a matter of urgency, needs to provide the island, at whatever the cost, the best equipment to enable planes to land regularly whatever the cloud conditions.
St Helena’s infrastructure, particularly its costly and unreliable communications, needs to be improved as a matter of urgency and its leaders need to be more welcoming and supportive to both local entrepreneurs and major outside investors.
I encountered red-tape from the moment I arrived when immigration officials insisted on myself and my small team filling in arrival forms, as well as providing immediate proof of our departure flights and health insurance. Why not follow the South African example of, upon entry, only needing a compulsory passport and optional smile?
Furthermore, I believe there should be a completely independent, strategic review of the island with nothing deemed “off the table”, including the island’s relationship with the UK. Saints would probably not want to be fully independent of the UK nor fully integrated into the UK, but everything needs to be assessed by experts who are devoid of any agenda.
Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, recently aired the possibility that a small number of senior overseas diplomatic posts could be filled by experienced businessmen or women.
Just days before I landed on St Helena, it was announced that the new governor of the island will be Dr Philip Rushbrook, who takes up his role in May.
I mean no disrespect to Dr Rushbrook, but surely St Helena presented the perfect opportunity to put a business leader, rather than a career civil servant, in the role. It would have been a controversial move but it might well have been a bold and wise move too.
As I headed back to the airport by taxi at the end of my two-day visit, I felt sad that Saints have become so despondent about their uncertain future. Their savings are dwindling, their resilience is weakening and their dreams are fading. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions but this tightly-knit community, which will always have a special place in my heart, deserves better.
>Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. For more information on his work, visit www.lordashcroft.com
The world has changed a lot over the past 30 years, becoming both more open and democratic and more prosperous. Well-being indicators of those most in need, especially in terms of health and education, have improved dramatically. But we still confront tremendous challenges, ranging from climate change to growing inequalities, especially within countries, and from […]
The world has changed a lot over the past 30 years, becoming both more open and democratic and more prosperous. Well-being indicators of those most in need, especially in terms of health and education, have improved dramatically. But we still confront tremendous challenges, ranging from climate change to growing inequalities, especially within countries, and from conflict and fragility to migration. In addition, a profound dissatisfaction with liberal democracy and perceptions about the way it works has set in, not only in the developing world but also in countries that have traditionally been considered the cradles of democracy.
So despite the progress, it can often feel like we are confronting the greatest period of uncertainty and instability we have experienced since the second world war. As happened after World War II, the collective problems we face today require collective ways to address them. The United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the European Union itself, are all founded in the experience of what happens when the world fragments. Coming together to create rules-based regional and global communities was the answer in the post-War era. This is why it feels strangely anachronistic for the UK to press on with Brexit now – especially when considering that the EU has been the single most successful multilateral effort of peace- and state building and the promotion of development and prosperity we have known.
Prime Minister May launched the idea of a “Global Britain” in October 2016 to counter fears that the UK would become inward-looking after Brexit. The UK has been a powerful and influential player in the world stage, playing among other things a leading role in shaping the Sustainable Development Goals. But it is also the case that the EU has been a major multiplier for UK development and foreign policy – just as the UK has been a multiplier for EU development and foreign policy – and both risk losing significant leverage. So regardless of whether Britain stays inside or leaves the EU, making “Global Britain” more than a slogan will require sustained leadership and continued investment and engagement in crucial international relationships and commitments, both with(in) the EU and beyond.
In many ways, the work that the UK government has been doing on international development over the years can be considered to be “Global Britain” at its best. The Department for International Development (DFID) in particular has been widely recognised for its innovation and effectiveness, even if it still has a lot to learn. Speaking at an event at the Institute for Government in March 2017, Paul Collier, for example, said that Angela Merkel reportedly told Theresa May in a G7 gathering that the UK government should protect DFID because it was one of the UK’s “crown jewels”.
But perhaps most importantly, the idea of a Global Britain hinges on the promise that the UK can be a force for good in the world because of our values and track record as one of the oldest liberal democracies in the world. Yet it seems that the Brexit process has generated tensions and pressures that have made it much more difficult stand up for and uphold those collective values and beliefs, both at home and abroad. Over the past two years, the UK has confronted challenges to democratic practices and principles that have traditionally seemed more befitting of countries where democratic systems are far less rooted and institutionalised. Evidence and truth seem to have become far less relevant and important in informing public debate; violations of electoral law have taken place without any meaningful accounting for such actions, let alone reflection for what this implies in terms of shaping policymaking; and individual political ambition seems to have taken precedence over longer term horizons, in ways that can profoundly compromise our collective prosperity and wellbeing over the longer term.
The detrimental effects that the Brexit process has brought about are also clear on the international front, and many of the actions of the UK Government post-Brexit say a lot about current UK priorities and influence as supposed global leaders. Think about the way the UK government has had to tiptoe around Donald Trump because of the overriding imperative to negotiate a trade agreement with the United States. Or about how UK representatives have voted in recent motions in the European Parliament. In a vote in September to initiate proceedings against the Hungarian government for posing a systemic threat to democracy and the rule of law, only one Tory MEP voted in favour while fifteen voted against it and two abstained. This was in sharp contrast to other centre-left or centre-right parties represented in the EU Parliament, all of which supported the motion. And in October, following the killing of well-known journalist and outspoken Saudi critic Jamal Kashoggi, the EU Parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia — but Tory MEPs abstained.
These are some of the dilemmas that Brexit has confronted us with: hard trade-offs between upholding our values and the imperatives of building alliances we (think we) need once we are out of the EU. The evidence to date is not very encouraging about which our current government will choose. But if the UK is to remain an influential global leader, this is not good enough. “Global Britain” does not mean much if it is not firmly anchored in our liberal democratic values.
* Alina Rocha Menocal is an expert on the politics of development. She has written this piece in a personal capacity, based on her participation on a panel organised by the Lib Dem International Development group at conference in Brighton on 16 September 2018, in which she was asked to reflect on what Brexit might imply for international development.
Magufuli talks of the ‘harmful effects of birth control’ and attacks women using contraception as ‘lazy’, but we give £45 million to boost family planning in his nation.
I first visited Tanzania aged six. My father was a colonial civil servant so we were living in Malawi, then called Nyasaland and a wonderful place for a child such as me to grow up. We were heading home on leave, taking the ship to Tilbury, and so travelled through the bustle of Dar Es Salaam, enabling my dad to meet up with some colleagues. The city seemed an amazing, exotic place through my young eyes, with its thriving port and throng of cultures.
Since those far-off days, the east African nation has been comparatively stable, economically sluggish but avoiding the coups, ethnic conflicts and free expression clampdowns that have blighted too much of the continent over recent decades. No longer. A former schoolteacher called John Magufuli won the presidency three years ago, then sent it sliding down a wearily-familiar path into repression. As The Economist put it earlier this year, he is “fast transforming Tanzania from a flawed democracy into one of Africa’s more brutal dictatorships”.
Magufuli, nicknamed ‘The Bulldozer’, took over hopes that he might crush the curse of corruption. Instead, he is ripping apart the fabric of freedom and democracy amidst deteriorating human rights within his nation of 56 million people. Business are bullied by tax officials, investor confidence has crashed, the media is muzzled, political rallies prohibited and opponents disappear. Even bloggers are targeted with a yearly charge costing more than Tanzania’s average annual income. In another alarming incident, a henchman announced the creation of ‘surveillance squads’ to seize homosexuals, who can face up to 30 years in jail – a move that led the United States to warn its own citizens to take care in the country.
This is depressing for a place that had largely escaped some of Africa’s worst political problems. But Tanzania shows again the fallacies of patronising Western aid policies that pump huge sums of money into poor nations with too little regard for realities on the ground. Our politicians love to boast of boosting democracy and ending poverty as they spend billions taken from taxpayers on their pet projects around the world. Yet, as economists point out, such interventions can shore up the rent-seeking elites and corruption that corrode democracy, civil society and wealth creation, who focus on foreign donors rather than tackling needs on the ground.
Tanzania has long been a donor darling. It is, after all, next door to the aid capital of Kenya, filled with all those foreigners in swish white jeeps and subsidised housing that love to lecture the rest of us on development. So it was handed about £20 billion between 1990 and 2019 as it shifted from benign one-party Socialism into a multi-party democracy, making it the second-biggest recipient of foreign funds on the continent after Ethiopia. Big chunks came from Britain. Yet even before Magufuli took power, there were warnings from experts that donor interventions were having ‘unintended consequences’ on issues such as accountability.
Despite the worrying repression, Britain still hands over £153 million a year to Tanzania as the aid budget soars. One-third goes directly through the government, according to the Department for International Development, with its usual hollow talk about ‘zero tolerance’ for corruption. Yet four years ago, Western donors suspended hundreds of millions of pounds in general budget support after it was revealed that ministers had stolen up to $180 million from the central bank, using energy company escrow accounts. Tanzania fails to dent the top 100 in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index of nations.
Britain has its own creaking public services. Yet our political masters say we must give away about £14 billion this year to hit that controversial target of donating 0.7 per cent of national income. So Magufuli can talk about ‘harmful effects of birth control’, ban advertisements, close AIDS clinics and attack women using contraception as ‘lazy’, but we none the less donate £45 million for promotion of family planning in his nation. Even the World Bank, hardly renowned for its moral leadership, suspended a £230 million loan after Tanzania banned pregnant girls from school and made it a crime to question official data (although it still backs other schemes there worth almost £3 billion).
Earlier this month, Denmark – Tanzania’s second-biggest donor – announced it was withholding £7.5 million of aid due to concerns on human rights abuses and homophobia. ‘I’m very worried about the negative developments in Tanzania,’ said Ulla Tornaes, its development minister. Canada admits to being in a ‘dilemma’ over following suit. The European Union has withdrawn its ambassado,r and is reviewing aid projects along with all its member states. ‘Respect for human rights and the rule of law has been repeatedly undermined,’ it said in a statement.
Britain – hiding behind the EU cloak despite Brexit, strong historic links and being such a key donor – has kept pretty quiet. Yet amid this tragic descent into despotism and bigotry, among the projects we fund is a £14 million scheme claiming to strengthen ‘democratic institutions and governance in Tanzania.’ As seen so often in the back-scratching aid sector, this programme intending to promote ‘more inclusive and accountable institutions’ has won A-grade reviews. It is one more example of how Western donors can be so blind to the bigger picture, focusing on well-meaning projects while ignoring obvious events swirling all around them.
Sadly, aid can have corruptive effect, as seen in this fine country, where a tide of foreign cash only served to shore up corrupt and now repressive leaders. Clearly the cash failed to solidify weak institutions. Tanzania shows the dangers of aid fungibility, when funds designed to help the poor and oppressed end up doing the precise opposite by severing the bond between government and the governed. ’That contract is deeply undermined if the government never has to raise any revenue, does not have to generate any services for its people, because essentially all it has to do is play games with the aid agencies,’ said Angus Deaton, the Nobel-winning British economist and poverty expert.
It was another brilliant British economist who defined foreign aid in 1975 as ‘a transfer of resources from the taxpayer of a donor country to the government of a recipient country.’ Peter Bauer also famously pointed out that decent governments did not need aid while it would not work in places where there was bad leadership. Yet still today our politicians ignore his wise words, as they brush aside the growing mountain of evidence that so much of their aid has failed to achieve its stated aims.
Is it any wonder Western electorates have lost so much faith in leaders when you look at the tragic failures of aid and this contempt for clear evidence? Look at how Westminster colludes across tribal divisions to divert billions taken from taxpayers at home to assist some of the most appalling leaders abroad, enriching those at the top while worsening life for those at the bottom of impoverished societies. This is little more than a con trick, cheered on by charities and consultants growing rich from the largesse. Sadly, Tanzania is now a casebook study in the bulging textbook of aid failure.
It has secured an overwhelming dominance. Until or unless this changes, the Right may win elections – but to limited effect.
Iain Mansfield is a former senior civil servant, winner of the Institute of Economic Affairs Brexit prize and a Conservative councillor candidate. He writes in a personal capacity.
A stark feature of the 2017 election was the emergence of an army of independent groups and organisations backing Labour, with very few backing the Conservatives. From ivory trading to welfare reform, school funding to tuition fees, influential groups were queuing up to support the policies of the Left. The election demonstrated that whilst the Conservative Party can still win more votes, the Left has secured an overwhelming dominance amongst those traditionally seen as opinion formers and societal leaders.
We cannot simply abandon entire swathes of society to the left. This is true not simply for the short-term goal of winning votes, but because of the importance of such institutions in shaping society as a whole, including via the education of the young and the contribution to political and societal discourse. An important part to this is ensuring there are no areas of society where Conservative voices cannot be heard, as Sam Gyimah, Jacob Rees-Mogg and others are doing with their campus tours. But if we are to reclaim these institutions for conservatism, we must do much more.
A more positive approach to the public sector
As Conservatives, we rightly believe that the private sector can often do a better job than the public sector at delivering the outcomes that people want. It is important to remember, however, that this is for structural reasons: the incredible power of prices as signalling mechanisms, or the way that meaningful competition can unleash innovation and improvements in performance.
Too often when speaking on this subject, some Conservative politicians give the impression that they believe that people who work in the private sector are innately better, more capable or harder working – a conclusion that is not just wrong, as anyone who has spoken to a nurse or teacher will tell you, but which understandably alienates hard working public sector employees, driving them into the arms of our opponents. When championing the private sector we must ensure we do so for the right reasons, and do not simultaneous denigrate the public sector.
Alongside this, as many Conservative MPs have already called for, we must take a more compassionate approach to public sector salaries, particularly for those on lower and middle incomes. The touch decisions taken by the Coalition to freeze pay and reform pensions were badly needed, but after eight years of pay restraint, salary increases in line with inflation are essential if we are to granted a fair hearing.
Strategically selecting Conservatives when making public appointments
Many of the most important public decisions in the UK are not made by government ministers, but by arms-length bodies. Ministers have little direct control over such bodies, but the principal power they do have is to appoint their leadership, typically including the chief executive, air and board members. Unfortunately, whilst Labour ministers typically appoint individuals who share their values, Conservative ministers have typically taken a more even-handed approach, meaning – as ConservativeHome has long recognised – Labour supporters are significantly over-represented in such positions.
Encouraging more applications is a good start; however, it is not sufficient. Conservative ministers must ensure that they actively select appointees who share conservative values. If necessary they must be willing to use their existing powers to overrule officials’ advice and insist either on reopening applications, or appointing an otherwise qualified individual.
I am not suggesting that every appointee must be a dyed-in-the-wool Tory. There are many excellent individuals for whom their political views, whatever they may be, do not significantly impact their professional outlook or decisions. There may also be some exceptions: foreign policy, for example, is an area where left and right often agree and which therefore may allow cross-party appointments, as illustrated in art by President Santos’s appointment of Arnold Vinick as Secretary of State, or in life by the superb recent appointment of Gisela Stuart as Chair of Wilton Park. But in the main, to hand over large swathes off our economic and social landscape to those who are open Labour supporters, active in the left-wing union movement, or otherwise opponents of conservatism does great harm to our cause.
Dismantle New Labour’s left-wing policy laws
One of Blair and Brown’s most insidious legacies is the number of laws that enshrine a left-wing bias in our policy making. Little known by the general public, and often included as part of otherwise worthwhile Acts, such clauses force civil servants to couch their advice in the language of the Left; not due to bias on their part, but through rightful, dutiful adherence to the law of the land.
The Human Rights Act’s commandment that ministers must consider the human rights implication of any Bill brought before Parliament; the ‘Public Sector Equality Duty’ in the (otherwise positive) Equalities Act; the so-called ‘fair access’ regime in university admissions; and the exclusion of the UK’s national interest from the International Development: these laws, amongst others, create a policy framework in which left-wing views find fertile fruit more readily than conservative ones. The systematic amendment of such Acts is a vital part of restoring the civil service’s ability to genuinely provide objective, impartial advice to ministers.
The commanding heights of society
When Tony Blair revised Clause IV of the Labour Party’s constitution, it was taken as a sign that he had renounced Marx’s instruction for the state to take control of the commanding heights of the economy. Not only was this judgement premature, as Corbyn’s return to fully-fledged socialism demonstrates, we overlooked the way the left was establishing its dominance across society. If the Conservative party is to thrive in the twenty-first century, we must act now to reclaim the commanding heights of society for conservatism.
Plus: When The Sun doesn’t shine and the Home Office doesn’t work. P.S: In solidarity with the former Waitrose food magazine editor, I will eat steak.
Iain Dale is an LBC presenter, a commentator with CNN and the author/editor of over 30 books.
A good example of how The Sun manipulates its readers could be found in Wednesday’s edition. Matt Dathan had a story about how the foreign aid budget will now top £14 billion. In The Sun’s eyes, this is clearly a disgrace. Dathan wrote: “Data buried in the budget said that spending would rise £230 million next year and £190 million in 2019-20. The combine sum is £20 million higher than the £400 million given to schools for “’little extras they need’.”
He failed to point out that the money for schools is an extra in-year allocation payable in this financial year. It’s hardly comparing like with like. A more legitimate piece of political criticism would have been to criticise the tin-rated Treasury politicians, advisers and civil servants who failed to spot that spending £20 million more on potholes than schools might just rebound on the Chancellor. Say what you like about Damian McBride, but he would have spotted that one a mile off.
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This week, the editor of the Waitrose Food Magazine, William Sitwell, was forced to resign. In other words, he was sacked.
His crime? Well, Selene Nelson, a vegan writer, emailed him a suggestion for a series of articles on Vegan food. He responded with a tirade against Vegans, and suggested they should all be force-fed food and killed one by one.
This was clearly not meant seriously – but in this day and age, obviously, one has to take offence. Nelson did what any person would do in the circs and went to the press.
Result: Waitrose took fright at the Vegan onslaught on social media and let Sitwell go. This really is the age of the snowflake. And I say this as someone who for health reasons now has to eat some Vegan food. However, in solidarity I shall be having a steak for dinner tonight.
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I’m in the middle of preparing to write a very long read profile/interview with a Cabinet Minister for a national newspaper. I’m at the stage in the process where I wonder why I ever suggested doing it.
I’ve done nearly all the interviews, done most of the background research, I know roughly what themes will run in it…but I haven’t yet written a word. The only thoughts that go through my head are: “this is going to be rubbish, I can’t write as well as other people, should I just ditch it?”
I won’t of course. Because I’ve been through this so many times that I know that once I start writing, it’ll be fine. It’s just getting to the point where I write an actual sentence. I’d love to tell you who I’m writing about, but then, in the words of William Sitwell, I’d have to kill you. And that would obviously that mean Paul Goodman would fire me from this column for offending snowflakes. And you wouldn’t want that. Would you???
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It seems to me the big winner from the Budget, if we’re talking about politicians, is the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson. No one thought he could get £1.8 billion out of the Chancellor, especially after going to public on his demands. But get the money he did. Now let’s see what he does with it.
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Caroline Nokes is rapidly gaining a reputation as the most hapless and gaffe-prone minister in the government. Which is a shame, since she’s actually in the charge of the country’s borders.
Her performance in front of the Home Affairs select committee this week was buttock-clenchingly embarrassing. If you don’t believe me, watch it. For the immigration minister not to know her own Government’s immigration policy post-Brexit was simply unforgiveable.
Shona Dunn, The Home Office’s Second Permanent Secretary, then went on to say that the Prime Minister has made clear that, in the event of a no deal, that free movement would end on March 29 2019, and she imagined – yes, imagined – there would have “to be a few bits of secondary legislation” passed before then.
Sajid Javid then appeared on Peston the next day, and completely contradicted his most senior civil servant – saying that in these circumstances there will be a “transition period” for EU citizens, explaining that “if there was a no deal, we won’t be able to immediately distinguish between those Europeans who were here before March 29 and those who came after.”
He’s right, of course, but why is that so difficult for both his Permanent Secretary and Immigration Minister to understand? In 2006, the then Home Secretary, John Reid, caused a massive political row by saying that he believed the Home Office was not “fit for purpose”. We’ve had five Home Secretaries since then, and it appears that little has changed. It’s still too unwieldly.
Here’s a suggestion. Post-Brexit, let’s take immigration out of the Home Office, and create a new Department of Border Security with a seat in the Cabinet.
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If you’re into podcasts, check out my new Book Club podcast, which this week asks how we can mend our broken politics. I’m joined by three political political experts with books out – Isabel Hardman from The Spectator, Philip Collins from The Times and Tom Baldwin, who now runs comms for the People’s Vote campaign. It’s a great listen, even I do say so myself. And as a bonus you can also listen to me interviewing Giles and Mary from Gogglebox!
At the moment, we are treading water and appear to be relying on popular support for Brexit, and the threat of Corbyn, to keep us in office.
George Freeman MP is Chair of the Conservative Policy Forum and The Big Tent Ideas Festival, and is MP for Mid-Norfolk.
On Monday, the Chancellor announced that “austerity is coming to an end”. Politically, there was a lot to cheer in this Budget – some good news and headlines for struggling high streets, our crucial Universal Credit reform, NHS workers and the vast majority of constituents who rely on public services. Furthermore, there were many helpful retail pledges for colleagues in marginal seats. Given the Brexit divisions and infighting, we badly needed some good news.
But if we are going to end the biggest squeeze on disposable incomes since the war, the central question for our future is this: how can we get back to the 2.5-3 per cent growth that we enjoyed pre-Brexit? Before the EU Referendum, we were one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe and the G7. Now we’re one of the slowest-growing.
The Budget invites the public to judge us on different metrics – no longer on our commitment to balance the books (abandoned) or reduce the debt (still growing), but on our ability to “end austerity”. People will now need to feel tangible improvements and see how Brexit can be a catalyst for much higher growth and prosperity.
Because this Budget won’t be decided on the comment pages of broadsheets. It will be decided on the ground. By parents chatting at the school gates. Families looking after their ageing relatives in care homes. Commuters stuck in traffic jams because the housing has come, but the infrastructure hasn’t. Or the millions standing on trains every morning who’ve shelled out £2,000 for a season ticket and feel ripped off.
I no longer advise the Prime Minister, but here’s what I’d say if I still did. We need to remind people that every public sector pound has to be earned before it is spent, and that we need a more inspiring programme of business-led growth to drive prosperity and opportunity. This means some big changes.
First, accelerating our transition from a service economy to an innovation nation. Innovation is key to our driving up productivity, prosperity, inward investment and exports. We won’t escape debt with growth at 1.5 per cent and low productivity. We need a renaissance of enterprise and innovation. Such buccaneers as James Dyson and Richard Branson have done more to transform this country’s prospects than any government department ever will. We need to stop the business-bashing and promote entrepreneurship and innovation. While the UK is still a crucible of start-up entrepreneurship, the engine is not yet humming: we have too many start-ups that are never scaled up, too little of our innovation funded by the City and too little that is taken global by British companies. We need a new national mission. We must be the innovation nation.
Second, tangible access to new markets for our innovation.We can’t just do research. We need to innovate, manufacture and trade. If Brexit means anything, it surely means an opportunity to go global. But that can’t mean importing cheap food and cheap clothes from sweatshops. We need to be exporting our innovation. The UK should be using every tool possible to unlock access to the fastest emerging markets in Africa and Asia.
For 40 years our whole economy has been geared to our being a European services economy. Why don’t we make Brexit the moment to embrace a new global strategy for higher growth through exporting technology and innovation into emerging markets? If the opportunity is properly seized, we could use our Industrial Strategy and public sector innovation to make Britain a crucible of new technology scale up and financing through the City.
We could then use our aid budget and global soft power in emerging markets to grow our exports and trade links with the fastest growing economies. Why don’t we offer some of the fastest emerging countries where we have a strong historic links a deeper Aid, Trade and Security Development Partnership?
Third, harnessing the public sector as a test bed of innovation. We’ll never export our innovation if we’re not using it ourselves. Innovation can’t be just about making a lucky few in the City rich beyond their wildest dreams. In order for us to be a test bed for new technology, we need to put enterprise and innovation at the heart of the public sector. If we want to lead the world in digital health, we won’t do it unless the NHS is already a pioneer. You can have as many digital health clusters in Shoreditch as you like. But if the NHS isn’t testing and buying it, we will never become the innovation nation we need to be. Building, financing and growing these little start-ups into serious businesses of scale. The problem of the austerity era was thinking that our problems could be solved by cutting things. Actually, the only way our problems can be solved is by growing things.
Fourth, empowering local leaders to innovate more. Innovation can’t be ordered from on high. It comes from people having the power to make decisions themselves. That’s why we need to embrace bolder economic localism. Let’s remember that our national economic performance is made up of hundreds of local economies, all of which need to be growing faster. Another five years of ever-tighter spending controls from the Treasury risks undermining local growth and innovation. Instead of delaying essential local infrastructure holding our growth hubs back, why not let them raise infrastructure bonds in the international capital markets and embrace bold ideas like integrated track and train mutuals which invests users money into better services?
Fifth, a new model of Treasury incentives. Too often, Whitehall’s funding orthodoxy rewards failure. If you deliver more for less in the public sector we give you…less! And give more to those failing. If you ran a business like that it would be bust. And depressing to work in. It’s no wonder that public sector leaders are so dispirited. Many are leaving. We need them to stay. So why don’t we send a signal to encourage them, be bold and embrace a new model of incentives-based funding which rewards successful local service leaders for delivering efficiency and productivity? We need a new approach based on a radical idea: if an area reduces the deficit quicker than Whitehall’s average we should let them keep 50 per cent of the savings to re-invest. Why not the same on growth? If councils grow their tax base, why not let them keep 50 per cent for local services?
Our choice as a nation is clear. Do we timidly manage our decline? Or do we set out a bold plan a brighter future? At the moment we are treading water and appear to be relying on popular support for Brexit, and the threat of Jeremy Corbyn, to keep us in office.
For a majority of voters, keeping Corbyn out and delivering Brexit are not good enough answers. We need to show voters that this is the path to something more inspiring. We need to start setting out a bold vision for Conservatism in the twenty-first century.
I caught up with John Barrett, former Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West, the other day. He told me about his recent trip to Ethiopia. He first visited the country as an MP 15 years ago and has had a particular interest in international development ever since. He talked about how he and his wife […]
I caught up with John Barrett, former Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West, the other day. He told me about his recent trip to Ethiopia. He first visited the country as an MP 15 years ago and has had a particular interest in international development ever since.
He talked about how he and his wife Carol have been supporting a family in recent years. As a result of a conversation on their trip, he is now trying to raise £2000 to get them a fridge, a water purifier, a cooker and a washing machine.
Ten years ago I met Gimacho Ermias, a tailor, and his daughter Sarah in Ethiopia ,in the small town of Hosanna. Seeing how little they had of everyday things we take for granted, Carol and I have helped them out in a small way for the last 10 years and will continue to do so. Last month we visited them in their home town to see how they were.
He is still working as a tailor, earning a few pounds a day, and his wife, who suffers from asthma, has a full time job 25 miles away to make ends meet, so she can only return to be with her family at weekends. When I asked them what would change their lives, the answer came quickly. “Something to filter our drinking water, a fridge to keep food fresh, a cooker to replace their single electric ring and to make bread, and a washing machine.
I have decided to set up this page in the run up to Christmas to see what can be done to help them out. If you can help in any way, they would really appreciate it.
Why do we need to raise so much? These items, in Ethiopia, cost two to three times what we would pay for them here. I have contacted various places to see if we can get them at a more reasonable cost and if so we will be able to do more with any money we raise.
Two grand seemed like quite a lot for these items. John told me that this was because of massive import duties charged by the Ethiopian Government:
These items, in Ethiopia, because of import duties and tariffs cost two to three times what we would pay for them here. I have contacted various places, including the Minister at the Department for International Development, and the World Mission, to see if we can get them at a more reasonable cost and if so we will be able to do more with any money we raise.
So if you would like to help John and Carol on the way to their target, you can do so here.
As an aside, John is getting an award from Care UK this month for people who go “above and beyond for their community.’ A couple of weeks ago, he organised a concert which raised over £1300 for a local youth centre.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings
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