Exposing the absurdities of the aid industry
No. 3 - SPRING 2015
DFID crowned King of Donors!
“It’s value for money for taxpayers and the poor”
As the UK edges closer to enshrining in law the UN’s target for aid spending of 0.7% of national income, excited DFID staff and Ministers were last night congratulating each other on a job well done. “It’s wonderful” said a spokesperson, “and shows yet again DFID’s leadership and the benefits of our Value for Money (VfM) approach. When it comes to spending we’re right up there!”
The effect of the Private Members Bill, making its way through Parliament currently, will not only be to guarantee the level of DFID’s future budget. Revised figures on national income from the Office of National Statistics show that, in addition to the current unprecedented levels, DFID will need to spend a further £1bn in the next two years to meet its new commitments. Since DFID budgets for next year have already been fixed, this might have been considered a challenge. But, according to the spokesperson, apparently not.
“No, it’s all in hand. We’ve lots of ways of dishing it out. And our partners – contractors and NGOs – have assured us that they know how to make proper use of this. It seems they have a way …..”
“And of course we know we deliver excellent VfM. DFID saves a life every 2 mins 12 secs, empowers one woman by 7.3% every 4 mins 37 secs, and allows one child to read an additional 13 words every 9 mins 51 secs. The figures are clear and overwhelming – in fact, almost unbelievable.”
Responding to some critics who’ve suggested that DFID’s VfM figures are “meaningless, made-up pseudo-science and guff” that “don’t stand up to serious scrutiny” and say nothing about the “real and questionable efficacy” of UK aid, the spokesperson went on:
“The findings are from the Results Based Management system developed by our VfM Department. The metrics show conclusively that, for example, on a per pound per second per child per life enhancement opportunity basis we are delivering.
At this rate, if other donors would simply follow our lead and repeat our spending increase every year for the next 79 years, then the world perhaps ….. in any case, the figures speak for themselves. And it’s all very clear.”
“Clearly, this a strong vindication of our entire VfM strategy and shows the VfM of our VfM Dept. measured against recognised VfM indicators by the Department’s internal VfM compliance cell, and confirmed by an external VfM study undertaken by specialist VfM consultants”.
DFID feel confident that the clarity of their VfM approach – particularly repeated use of the term ‘VfM’ – will provide reassurance that reaching the 0.7% target is not simply a wasteful exercise to allow DFID and the Government to look good and “bask in a glow of spurious virtue and deflect or buy-off criticism of its achievements” or that the UN target itself is a “vacuous legacy from a simpler time which is now utterly devoid of developmental legitimacy”.
Indeed, according to DFID, the “0.7% figure has been scientifically proven to be precisely the right amount of aid to bring about transformational change. Or at least to give this impression. What’s more, those who reach this target, like us, have been decreed by the UN, widely accepted as arbiter of international right-and-wrong, to be morally-blessed. So you see our critics should have a bit more respect. Well, reverence actually.”
Meanwhile, the promoter of the Bill, Michael Moore MP, a sacked ex-Minister with no record of any experience or knowledge of international development, issued a partial warning against overt displays of self-righteous smugness by DFID supporters. “No, this is not the promised land, although it is a rather nice place! And no we’re not beyond criticism either, although we are rather special aren’t we? Above all, this just goes to show that we lead the way when it comes to caring.”
DevBalls is an online space for comment on the international development aid industry.
DevBalls is here because the aid industry has – functionally and morally – lost its way. And those who should hold it to account - the media, researchers, politicians - don’t. DevBalls is here because aid can only become better when its absurdities and hypocrisies are open to view.
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