A useful cognitive trait of mine is being able to identify Phillipsian discourse (writings, speeches and general utterances of Melanie Phillips) and remove her cancerous diatribes from my consciousness. However her recent impassioned plea to close the Department for International Development has seared itself in my brain and just will not go away. Now, let me be frank: the problems associated with foreign aid are multiple and troubling. Dambiasa Moyo has been credited by many for forwading a compelling argument that aid fosters economic dependency and stunted economic growth in her book Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way For Africa. Readers of Private Eye may recall Richard Brooks compelling and frankly horrifying illustration of the venality of the Commonwealth Development Corporation (please read: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7505527.stm ). Even Phillips herself, someone more associated with refined prose rather than evidence based opinion, does make some important points regarding instances when aid has fuelled civil war and consolidated the position of despots.
Considering the evidence, it would be deeply naïve to suggest that the UK’s aid policy is flawless and should be immune from reform. However her dramatic solution, based primarily on a narrow perception of Britain’s economic interest, leaves no alternative proposal for meeting the needs of the worlds poorest.
Phillips deems emergency responses to disasters to still be justified, but hesitates to name the body which would administer such support if the DFID ceased its work. Recipients of DFID money, including NGOs, often do extremely important work around immunisation, the provision of basic sanitation and famine relief. It is clearly evident that Melanie Philips parochialism is of the worst, and most dangerous kind.