Douglas Carswell

05 AUG 2016

Brexit could transform international development

Criminal cultists. Hamas terrorists. Recent revelations about rogue recipients of British aid don't inspire confidence in DfID's due diligence. We're overdue a rethink of how we do international development – and Brexit makes it possible.

Foreign aid isn't just misspent in select cases. It's partly flawed in principle. Providing emergency disaster relief is absolutely right. But development aid is a different story.

The premise underpinning development aid is that the way to spread wealth is by simple redistribution from rich states to poor. But the history of the world in the 20th century shows that's not the case. As I pointed out in The End of Politics, there is no evidence of any link between aid inflows into a country and economic growth.

Take China. Fifty years ago, it was one of the poorest countries in the world. Mass starvation was a regular occurrence. Today, it is an economic superpower. Its GDP per capita is almost 50 times what it was in 1962, and its total GDP is over 200 times greater.

That transition didn't happen thanks to handouts from the West, but through trade and investment. It's largely the same story in India, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Now compare Asia with Africa. Despite being home to two thirds fewer people than Asia, Africa receives more development foreign aid – around $56 billion in 2015, according to the OECD. Yet, year after year, much of the continent remains still desperately poor. Aid hasn't changed the paradigm.

It's not all bad news. Parts of Africa are taking off economically – but only thanks to foreign investment.

What many on the Left can't accept is that, from the perspective of the countries receiving it, trade is aid. It has brought millions of people permanently out of poverty in a way that handouts never can.

When Priti Patel, the new International Development Secretary, said aid should be linked to post-Brexit trade deals, Labour were predictably quick to criticise. But taking back control of our trade policy from Brussels finally allows us to make new trade deals with developing countries that will benefit both parties.

Brexit could transform the way we do development assistance for the better. How's that for internationalism?

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The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy

"A revolutionary text ... right up there with the Communist manifesto" - Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

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