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DFID and aid to Africa

Letters

In all the articles and letters about the rights and wrongs of a dramatic increase in aid for Africa, one very important point has been missed - how will the extra aid be disbursed?

Readers probably imagine that the Department for International Development (DFID) and the other agencies will simply work longer hours planning expanded bilateral programmes to achieve specific and sustainable improvements to infrastructure in African countries, as well as training for the future.

Unfortunately they cannot do this because they are already at full stretch. Instead they will hand over the money to the treasuries of the countries involved in the form of 'budgetary support', in the hope that it will be spent wisely.

Unfortunately, there are three problems. The first is that taxpayers' money is giving political support to the governments involved: however bad they are.

The second flaw is far more serious. Corruption is almost always present in developing countries, so some of our budgetary support is going into the pockets of corrupt individuals.

The third problem is perhaps a lesser one, but important to British companies all the same.

It is that budgetary support is invisible, so those countries putting money into bilateral programmes get all the credit, and that naturally encourages governments to favour their companies when they are awarding contracts.

The solutions are simple.

DFID needs more people, not just more money; and budgetary support should be used only where it is really appropriate and can be properly managed.

Graham Hand, chief executive, British Consultants & Construction Bureau, One Westminster Palace Gardens, Artillery Row, London SW1P 1RJ

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