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Saturday, 14 January 2012

Government Spending Cuts Today

We live in a time where at every turn and every corner we're faced with the word 'cuts.' We hear on a daily basis of people struggling to cope with the effects of these cuts; be they blows to our NHS with hospitals closing, or having to make sacrifices to our education system with schools closing, we surely all feel a sense of anger and resentment for the governments that have brought in these measures. Recently we saw thousands of police called to action to help combat mass rioting all across the UK, and again the very police force that some of us in those affected cities relied on, would also be put through the mincer by our prime minister and his advisers, resulting in lost jobs and reduced funding. These are of course the more serious areas hit by spending cuts, but university tuition fees are also rising and public buildings such as libraries are too being forced to close up their doors for good.

Now, it may be that due to the failure of bankers in the past; blame might be left solely in the previous Labour government's lap, and this is of course what many Conservatives want us to believe, but I think that at this point in time, the 'blame game' is simply not worth playing. We have to work out some way of dealing with this crisis, and simply pointing the finger achieves nothing whatsoever.

I want to bring to the attention of whoever reads this article, that there is one area of spending which is certainly not suffering any cut backs; on the contrary, David Cameron has pledged to put more of our tax payers' money into this area of spending. The spending I refer to is of course our foreign aid budget. At this point in time, we spend £8.1 billion on foreign aid; this increased from it's starting figure of 2.6 billion in the late nineties, and is set to increase again to 11.4 billion by 2014. How is it that at a time when we have 3.9 million children living below the poverty line in the UK, our own prime minister wants us to cut charities at home in favour of sending an extra £3.3 billion over seas?

It wouldn't be such a crime, if there was any evidence that sending this money to third world countries even made much of a difference anyway. There are generations of people living today in Africa who were once 'poor, starving children' who so desperately needed you or your parent's help, that today take part in vicious wars and bitter conflicts, murdering one another after the rest of the world tried so hard to save them from the poverty-stricken conditions they were brought up in. Many suffer from incurable illnesses or other various afflictions, yet while we're told that our money is being sent their by our government for the good of the people, it's becoming ever more difficult for our politicians to prove this to us. Think to yourself, if we've been giving billions of pounds to these people for well over a decade via the Department for International Development, then surely conditions will have improved massively? Well, have they? The answer is of course no, and the answer will always be no. Simply pumping money into systems that don't work, are rife with corruption and lawlessness, does not work; we will not save any significant number of people in this way.

If the implication is that our money isn't being spent in an effective, sensible way, then what on earth is happening to it? How do countries swallow up billions upon billions of pounds without making any noticeable difference to the lives of its inhabitants? Let us look at a specific case of the corruption I've mentioned already; let us look at Yoweri Museveni, who is the current president of Uganda. A couple of years ago, Mr. Museveni was given £70 million to help feed the people of his desperately poor country. In the same year, he received £57 million from the UK through the EU, and while his people starved, he bought himself a £30 million Gulfstream G550 jet with this aid money. Your taxes were used to provide an already rich, African politician, with a plane known as the ‘world’s most versatile and stylish ultra-long-range jet.’ Now, it's true that this happened under Labour in 2008 or 2009, but it's our current government under David Cameron and Nick Clegg that want us to increase our foreign aid budget by 34 percent. It was Peter Bauer that said aid transfers cash from poor people in rich countries, to rich people in poor countries, and in this instance that rings true more than ever. Is this really how we want our taxes spent?

It's not simply a case of corruption either, but gross mismanagement of funds; I quote now from an article written by Ian Birrell, which takes a look at aid work in Afghanistan. “One UN adviser looked into a house-building project in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, that began with £92 million in the bank. The job was sub-contracted so many times through agencies in Geneva, Washington and Kabul — each taking administration fees — that by the time the money got to those working on the project, they could afford to buy only some wooden beams from Iran.” Ian goes on to explain how the beams themselves cost five times the normal cost to deliver by a company which was owned by the governor of Bamiyan, and that they ultimately were too heavy to be used for village houses, so were in the end burned as firewood. £92 million; some firewood. Again, is this how we want our taxes spent?

A recent survey showed that as homelessness rises in Britain today, a quarter of 44,000 hotel beds used by the homeless are to be lost as a result of government spending cuts. The total amount of money to be cut is equivalent to £1.6 billion, while our foreign aid budget is going to rise by more than twice this amount over the next three years. How is it that we tolerate this? Are hungry foreigners more important to our politicians than the people who wander our own streets? Why is it that we're seemingly so happy to give endlessly for generations to countries which hardly benefit from our charity, when we seemingly begrudge giving money to our own people who struggle to survive in Britain?

I am not suggesting that all aid to people less fortunate than ourselves should stop completely; I simply propose that it should be our choice as to how that money is spent. If we wish as individuals to give a never ending supply of cash to Mr. Museveni in Uganda, or to provide the people of Bamiyan with Iranian firewood, then that's all well and good; I'm sure they appreciate your support, but we're living in times when this decision should not be made for us. We have troops fighting around the globe for one cause or another, while money they could benefit from is being wasted; effectively scattered to the wind. When they do finally return home, what state will our country be in? As I said in my opening paragraph, hospitals, schools and other public buildings will be shutting down, and the levels of people living rough on the streets will certainly have risen. If we wish to be charitable, then there are countless charities helping people in Africa or the Middle East or where ever else, that we can sign up to of our own accord, but this is about our taxes, and our people. This is about our country.

BranUK

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