Protect UK aid spending to eradicate global inequalities, not boost profits for British businesses.
A damaging narrative is emerging among our political leaders that seeks to use the UK’s aid budget as a means to boost the profits of private companies. This narrative promotes “redefining” what is meant by aid in order to allow British businesses to profit from Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).
Following the National Audit Office’s report into PFI and PF2, Philip Hammond used this year’s Spring Statement to once again decry the legacy of the Private Finance Initiative and launch a review into the private financing of public services and infrastructure here in the UK. Meanwhile, the Department for International Development (DfID) continues to promote private sector financing as a primary means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the global south.
Following the catastrophic failures of Carillion, Interserve and G4S, it is clear that that public-private partnerships (PPPs) have failed in the UK, so why does our government want to export this same model across the world and call it “aid”?
The impact of private financing
The recent history of privately financed projects across the world has shown us that when private companies are involved in the construction and delivery of public services (through PPPs and other arrangements), access to healthcare, education and sanitation by the poorest and most marginalised in a society is restricted and inequalities tend to increase.
This type of financing has been shown to often result in:
- High levels of debt that consume huge proportions of the budgets of low-income countries
- The diversion of government funding from public healthcare and education
- Dangerous cuts to the budgets and resources of schools and hospitals
- Extortionate user fees and tariffs that restrict access for the poorest and most marginalised
- Poorer conditions and a loss of rights for workers
- Corruption, a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability in service delivery
- Environmental damage caused by deforestation, pollution, reduction in biodiversity and through contributing to climate change
- The displacement of indigenous populations
- Threats to women’s rights and gender equality due to the disproportionate impact of user fees and tariffs on women
The profit-oriented objectives of private companies are simply at odds with our understanding of essential, public services as free and universal.
With more than 780 million people still living below the international poverty line, and progress on the SDGs still hugely uneven between women and men, urban and rural communities and within and between different regions, we need urgent action that accelerates – rather than impedes – progress towards the SDGs.
What are we calling for?
We are calling for effective overseas aid spending that is driven by the needs of the world’s poorest, not used to guarantee a profit for bosses and shareholders in the UK.
The UK’s international development programmes must focus on supporting nations in the global south to build free, universal and high-quality public services, as a means of eradicating poverty and inequality.
Call on the new Secretary of State for International Development,
Rt Hon Rory Stewart OBE MP , to put people before profit, citizens before shareholders and development before dividends:
The Equality Trust, along with the National Education Union, Global Justice Now, Health Poverty Action and the Bretton Woods Project, have also written an open letter to Rory Stewart MP, the UK’s new Secretary of State for International Development.
The Equality Trust and Health Poverty Action, as members of the Fight Inequality Alliance, are working together to promote this petition.
This article was written by the Equality Trust.