Nick Dearden, the Director of World Development Movement, has expounded on what the Guardian exposed last week with regards to British aid money being invested in pro- finance and pro- big business. My PhD thesis, which was submitted in late 2011, just over one year after the Conservative-led coalition took over the British government, highlighted (in several times) the Conservative emphasis/ focus on directing aid to private sector and business entities. Below are some extracts on that from my thesis:
“It is important to mention that the coalition government has also introduced other funding schemes. One of these funding schemes is the ‘Responsible and Accountable Garment Sector Challenge Fund’ (RAGS). The RAGS supports initiatives in poorer African and Asian countries supplying the UK market and is open to companies, trade unions and NGOs working to improve labour conditions in the garment sector.The calls for applications to this fund were launched in 2010 and 12 organisations were successful. None of them were FBOs. Interestingly, some of the recipients were non-traditional organisations (in terms of international development). For instance, funds were awarded to Tesco Stores Limited and Monsoon Accessorize Limited. The introduction of such funding echoes the coalition government’s international agenda, which focuses on the private sector and the role of businesses in wealth creation. There are many other funding schemes that are business-based. Another example is the Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund (FRICH) which has already awarded funds to Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Twin.” p.145
“Since the coalition government has highlighted ‘value for money’ and ‘wealth creation’ as major policy-guiding themes for international development policies, we see more emphasis on working with business/the private sector than voluntary groups. This is because the kinds of projects that DFID is promoting can be implemented by the private sector more easily than by the voluntary sector. Projects such as the M-Pesa and M Kesho in East Africa (money transfer/ banking services through mobile phones), for example, can only be implemented by companies such as Vodafone and/or banks. The words of the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, who stated: ‘it is my intention to recast DFID as a government department that understands the private sector, that has at its disposal the right tools to deliver and that it is equipped to support a vibrant, resilient and growing business sector in the poorest countries’. His words indicate the change of policy in DFID and the willingness to work with the private sector. The ‘value for money’ and ‘wealth creation’ policies attract engagement with private/business sectors more than voluntary groups such as FBOs.” pp 145-146
“The 2011-2015 DFID business plan, for ‘making DFID more private-sector’ friendly’, further highlights the plans to bring the private sector closer to DFID in preference to other groups. This has been done through a creation of a dedicated private sector team to drive cultural change.89 This private sector team was created in January 2011. In addition, DFID published a paper (in May 2011) titled ‘The engine of development: the private sector and the prosperity of poor people’, which details DFID’s new approach to working with the private sector. According to this paper, the new approach is about DFID doing more with and for private enterprise, extending this work in new areas, and doing it better. DFID wants private sector thinking to become as much part of its DNA as its work with charities and governments. “ p. 184
“… it is worth highlighting the differences between New Labour and the Conservative-led coalition government with regard to their international development approaches. When the New Labour government published the 1997 White Paper, it was clear that DFID would partner civil society organisations (e.g. NGOs, think- tanks, faith groups, trade unions, social movements and community groups) to eliminate world poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As a result of that, DFID established a Civil Society Department. On their side, the current government has kept this department, but it has created a new department for the private sector in order to strengthen its relationship with the private sector … This reflects the different approaches to development that these two parties have.” pp. 184-185
Without saying much, what I know is that what we are witnessing in DFID can be understood in the context of neoliberalism. As Dearden has highlighted, similar trends of “development” are practiced by the World Bank… It’s unfortunate that “Development” Masters are embracing the very policies that have caused inequality in the world to the point of threatening peace and stability….let’s rethink!