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John Chuckman



Foreign aid by governments, in general, has little to do with helping people, although speeches on the subject always contain the empty words.

Most of foreign-aid payments are effectively bribes used to influence the behavior of states, especially in the donor county’s receiving votes of support in international institutions and forums. Being a sizable donor gives a government the power – and it is used often, but always on a confidential basis – to threaten to stop or reduce payments.

It is not unlike the “pensions” that one state – say, France or Spain – awarded individuals in other states – say, an important high official in Britain – in the sixteenth century. The “pensions” were about influence.

Corrupt politician-recipients, who generally use the money for their own security, are tolerated by donor countries so long as they do what is expected at key times.

This basic way of operating foreign aid is a major reason for its often being such a visible failure, but I do not see how it can be any different, people being what they are, and I mean by that politicians, both the David Camerons doing the giving and the third-world leaders socking it away in Swiss Bank accounts.

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