A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece explaining why I thought the Dfid budget should not be ringfenced. What provoked my ire had been the revelation that we are giving £800 million in aid to India, a country which spends almost as much every year on its space programme.
I was therefore delighted to read this weekend that all aid to Russia and China was being cancelled. Quite why we were giving any aid at all to countries in the G20 is anyone's guess. It's a sure sign of the profligate approach of the previous government. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell is also reviewing aid to other countries, and about time too. He might start with India. India and China are the two main powerhouses of the East. Of course both countries have huge problems with poverty, but if they don't address that, is it really the place of the British taxpayer to ride to the rescue?
The ringfencing of the Dfid budget means that the savings made on cutting aid to China and Russia are not being handed back to the Treasury, as you might have thought ought to be the case. Instead, all these funds are being directed to Afghanistan. This means that our aid budget to Afghanistan is increasing by 40%. The challenge for Andrew Mitchell will be to make sure that this money is not pissed down the drain. If it ends up in the pockets of Afghan warlords it would be an absolute scandal.
I look forward to hearing what plans are in place to ensure that does not happen.