Thursday, 15 January 2015

Foreign aid puts countries one step forward, and two steps back.

Justice is not about punishing those who go against the law, justice is about making things that are 'unjust', 'just'.

The main thing that is unjust in the world, is the fact that people who live in certain countries, African countries being the most infamous, can't improve their terrible lot in life because of factors beyond their control.

Many people say that they aren't working hard enough, which is why they are poor. This is totally wrong. Economies with inferior technologies are forced to compete with economies that possess far superior technologies; no amount of effort is going to mean they win this impossible fight.

This imbalance is caused (on the whole) by free-market policies:

Firstly,  to qualify for aid from foreign  governments, poor countries have to drop the tariffs they put on imports, and the developing country's own goods have to compete with the developed country's goods. The developed country's goods will always win. This means that the developing country have no way to protect its domestic industries. It is organisations like the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund), that force 3rd world countries to use free-market policies, or else sacrifice their aid, that are causing this imbalance to happen.

This unjust practice from the World Bank (and other organisations) needs to stop. Developed countries themselves use 'old-fashioned', protectionist policies to shield their industries and keep them where they are today - at the top.

However, in the medium-term, it is just for the richer countries to give some of their large reserves to poorer countries to help them develop. More can be done to ensure the aid is being well-spent or - if it is material aid - being well-used. However, people who suggest that the UK’s aid budgets should be reduced, the UK’s is currently 0.7%, are highly insensitive and possibly even barbaric.

0.7% is barely anything of the UK's GDP. Yes, there are people in poverty in the UK but the amount of poverty in the UK is relatively low, when compared to the countries where aid currently goes.

In addition to that, there are often good organisations run by richer people in the UK that can look after those who are poorer – be it by food banks, homeless shelters or social security. In fact, the current Prime Minister supports this method of helping the poor and he calls this attitude the 'Big Society'. Whilst the 'Big Society' may not be a perfect idea, as it does not reach everyone who needs help in the UK, it is a more than is offered in poorer countries at the moment.

So giving 0.7% GDP or more in aid can help those countries provide welfare services to care for those who are suffering from the free-market policies, whilst we try to correct the unjust free-market policies.

We, as individuals, can also take actions to improve the situation.

We can make a concerted effort to buy Fair Trade products, such as Dairy Milk chocolate, which ensure that the people producing the raw materials used in the product are paid a decent amount (and a premium from Fair Trade which is spent on developing the community).

We can lobby our MPs to put pressure on the World Bank and our governments to stop requiring developing countries to use free-market policies and subsequently crushing their domestic economy.

We can donate to organisations like Tearfund, that work to help people in poorer countries get on their feet and teach them how to produce on their own, instead of sitting back and spending more and more on things that we don't need and which bore us after a few days.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Labour needs to stay where it is - not move to the 'centre'!

Labour needs to stay where it is - not move to the 'centre'!

Tony Blair said recently that Labour need to retake the centre ground. What he means by that isn't really clear, of course, but it can be presumed to mean keeping things as they are on the whole. I imagine he would probably oppose the move to reinstate the 50p rate of tax, cancel the energy price freeze and allow NHS privatization.

However, the moves that Tony Blair would probably support would be suicidal for Labour to implement. The fact is that in recent times, although the average position of the voter has remained about the same, voters on left and right have become more radicalised.

We can see this in the sharp increase of support for the Green Party, the SNP (and, to a lesser extent, Plaid Cymru) [and UKIP] on the left [and right] respectively. In contrast, the Liberal Democrats, who pose as the centrist party, have massively fell in support.

Labour have recognised that, on the whole, even the left are against the unrestricted immigration from the EU and have adjusted their immigration policy to a balanced, sensible one to account for that shift in opinion. However, really, Labour should be seeking to win back the voters moving to the Greens and the left nationalist parties which could lose it the next election.

Back in 2011, people expected Labour to win in 2015 because it would take the votes from the Liberal Democrats, but because it has also lost votes to the left of the party, this no longer seems feasible. Yes, Labour has also lost votes to UKIP, so it should speak its ideas on immigration loud and clear and say why they will work and why UKIP's ones won't to win these voters back. Most people think Labour don't talk about immigration enough at the moment (despite many of Miliband's conference speeches being on the issue) and it should attempt to rectify the issue.

So, Labour's issue is actually not being left-wing enough if anything! Although it should stay where it is to continue attracting disillusioned Liberal Democrat voters. Miliband should do his best to ignore New Labour voices like Blair who are advising for a different era - what works best then won't work best now.