The aid community call it 'securitisation', the rather narrow and deliberately derogatory suggestion that if British taxpayer's hard earned money is spent in the British interest then the moral uplands which many of them rather vacuously occupy will have been sullied.
The Coalition Government, as in all things, has tried to find the middle ground between the Left's view (rather prevalent in the aid community) that money spent on the world's poor must come first and those of us who believe that whilst nice in principle eradicating global poverty should be put on the back burner whilst so many in Britain face poverty.
Andrew Mitchell, the Secretary of State for International Development, will this week announce the results of a major review into British aid and development. Some of it makes perfect sense. Gone will be the aid to Russia, which regularly sends submarines and bombers into British air and water space to try and embarrass Britain. Gone will be the aid to China which is at present trying to slow its inflation-stoking annual growth upwards of 9% per annum and which recently became the world's second largest economy.
However, three gaping holes in the review will be glossed over. First, there will be no proper and much needed reform of the bloated Department for International Development (DfID). Some 3500 strong and with several senior officials earning more than 90000 pounds a year it is to me gratuitously offensive for them to lecture the rest of us about alleviating poverty. Indeed, in a sea of departmental cuts DfID stands out as an island of wealth and largesse, being the only department of state to enjoy an increase in its 2011 budget. Second, will be the lack of any move to reform the Overseas Development Act (ODA). The brainchild of the Labour Left, and beloved of Claire Short and Harriet Harman, the ODA effectively permits DfID to act as a state within a state placing them under no responsibility whatsoever to demonstrate a link between the use of British taxpayer's money and the British public good.
However, it is perhaps the third lacuna which will perhaps be the most gratuitously obscene. India is set to receive some 1.2 billion pounds from the British in aid over the next four years. And yet, whilst the British economy actually shrank in the last quarter of 2010 by some 0.6% the Indian economy is humming along at 9% per annum. The obscenity comes from the fact that India is pouring billions into a space programme that Britain could only dream of and last month the latest, brand new guided missile warship went down the slips in an Indian shipyard straining to cope with orders for such ships from the Indian Government.
And yet, one of the two Royal Navy ships that rescued so many from Libya over the past few days is now on its way home to be scrapped. This is not because the ship is outdated, but rather because under Britain's recent Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) London can no longer afford such a ship.
But perhaps worst of all the Indians do not even want the money. Two weeks ago an editorial in the influential Hindustani Times suggested that "cash-strapped" Britain was more in need of the money than India, the economy of which was "humming along". That very week I spoke to a senior Indian ambassador at an important security conference. He was succinct; New Dehli fully understood that Indian poverty was an issue for a rich India to resolve. Moreover, when the Indian Government had suggested to DfID that such aid might be ceased they were rebuffed with the accusation that they were being "arrogant". The only arrogance in this sorry affair can be found in an official aid community that has become unbalanced by the 'power' of its own political correctness.
Just before that meeting I was in Portsmouth Naval Base standing before the now defunct aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, until recently the pride of the fleet. Ironically, that 1.2 billion pounds we are giving to India is just about the money that would have kept Ark Royal in service or would have preserved the brand new but now scrapped critical airborne surveillance aircraft the MRA4. What a mess!
Britain is not alleviating poverty in India. Rather, the British taxpayer is subsidising one of the fastest military expansions in Asia at the expense of Britain's security and defence. Indeed, the only effective defence apparent in London is that of a bloated DfId and its myriad of civil servants and assorted hangers on.
Thankfully, Secretary of State Mitchell was floored by Jon Sopel on the BBC's Politics Show. When faced with this obscenity all he could do was trot out the tired mantra that many Indians lived below the poverty line.
If the plight of the Indian poor was so important to New Delhi why not scrap a space programme or a guided-missile ship or two?
Securitisation or just plain common sense?