Monday, 26 September 2005
Labour warned against spinning anti-poverty record
WDM's Head of Policy Peter Hardstaff said: "There have been some positive steps this year, such as the commitment to end harmful economic policy conditions attached to UK aid and the fact that some poor countries will finally get their debts cancelled. These are to be welcomed, but they have been spun out of all proportion and trumpeted as massive breakthroughs rather than small steps. Against this has to be set whole areas of policy, especially on supporting privatisation through the aid budget and pushing free trade in international negotiations, where the government just refuses to listen to the evidence that they are hurting the poor."
On Sunday the G8 debt deal was confirmed at the annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF in Washington. It gives debt cancellation to 18 countries rather than the 60 demanded by campaigners and forces poor countries to implement tough economic reform programmes to qualify.
Peter Hardstaff said: "The message from Labour to voters during the election was 'you may have hated the war on Iraq but look at all the good we are doing on international development'. Unfortunately this claim is as dodgy as any dossier on weapons of mass destruction.
"The G8 debt relief deal is inadequate, the aid budget increases are too small with much being wasted paying business consultants to promote failed policies such as water privatisation in developing countries, and the Government continues to be obsessed by pushing free trade as a panacea to solve world poverty.
"The rhetoric and passion of Hilary Benn, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair is strong and righteous, but unfortunately the policies are often weak or wrong."
WDM says the spin is particularly bad on the issue of trade. On November 02 thousands of campaigners will lobby Parliament as part of Make Poverty History coalition to demand trade justice, not free trade.
Peter Hardstaff said: "We agree with the Government that we must end damaging export subsidies and reform the scandalous common agricultural policy but we totally oppose moves by the Government to get developing countries to open their markets and economies to be exploited by our multinational corporations.
"This year has seen an unprecedented mandate given to politicians to take strong, decisive action against world poverty. Millions, including some in the cabinet, have worn the white Make Poverty History wristbands and hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets. Yet far from being brave in response and face down those who might oppose him, Gordon Brown wants rich countries to borrow money to increase aid budgets rather than pay out of taxation now, which will reduce the total aid available in the long term because of interest payments."
* Aid levels: The UK will not meet the UN target of given 0.7% of national income as aid until 2013 (the UK currently spends 0.36% and is ninth highest out of 15 EU aid donors). This will be 43 years since the promise was made – ten years more than the average life span in Zambia. France is committed to meeting the target by 2012.
* Aid spending on business consultants: Two firms alone, PriceWaterhouse Coopers and Adam Smith International, have received a total of £37m in UK aid for privatisation projects in developing countries since Labour came to power. The Department for International Development (DFID) spent £2.8 million facilitating water privatisation in Ghana alone.
* Debt relief: Only 18 countries will receive immediate debt relief from the G8 plan rather than the 60 that need it. Qualification for debt relief depends on implementing damaging economic reforms. Total value of the debt deal to developing countries is just $1bn a year.
* Trade: UK continues to back international trade negotiations at the WTO to open up developing countries markets in service and industrial sectors.
* International Finance Facility: Borrowing from future aid budgets to spend now will reduce total global aid by $108bn over 30 years.
Dave Timms, Press Officer (in Brighton for Labour Conference): 07711 875 345
smash the debt