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International development

Today’s Oxfam report is just wrong

I have been searching the report for any proper evidence or arguments. There are none. It is simply a list of leftist, nanny-knows-best assertions and prescriptions.

If food prices do rise as suggested by Oxfam, this should lead to increased food supply which will in turn push food prices down again as supply increases. Higher food prices will almost certainly lead to better infrastructure, increased food production and greater wealth for sub-Saharan Africa.

The report fails to discuss the real problems facing people in the third world.

Democracies never have famine and never have civil wars. The Oxfam report fails to mention the word democracy. Food aid given to despots is simply wasted money. It merely increases the despots’ power of patronage. Western aid should be concentrated on making countries that work, work better. We will not increase the number of functioning countries, able to make a positive contribution, by wasting resources on the broken ones. Once the neighbours have a model to follow they will change very quickly.

Despotic and corrupt governments have leaders and politicians who are happy to steal from their own people on an epic scale. Even the worst excesses of our MPs’ expenses scandal only highlights what total angels our politicians are by comparison to those in many countries. We know what keeps our politicians honest here. A free press. Another phrase which does not appear in the Oxfam report. Why doesn’t Oxfam prescribe what works in the West? Western aid should not be given to countries without a free press.

All wealthy countries have a properly functioning legal system where contracts can be made and property ownership proven. No sensible farmer will invest in land if he doesn’t know he owns it and he can’t sell his crops. The Oxfam report is again silent on legal systems and contract formation. Western aid should be focussed on building and supporting basic legal systems and the civil legal system and land registry in particular.

Poor people need what rich people need: democracy and justice. Once these are in place all people will organise themselves quickly to sort out their food needs, to educate their children and look after the sick. It is what humans do. Aid needs to be focussed on democracy and justice first, not food aid, health and education.

Instead of recommending basic solutions which we know work in the west Oxfam essentially prescribes massive state intervention and smallholding. Oxfam is talking rubbish. Their prescriptions are actively destructive I would say and miss the obvious. Oxfam seems to be focussed on making British people feel bad and influencing the British government and other Western governments to keep spending more, most of which ends up in the wrong place.

We will most likely have 9 billion people on the planet by 2050. We need to work out how to release the talents of these 9 billion so that we can make the world work for all of us. Proposing solutions that we know don’t work for us in the West is just insulting nonsense.