Over the last couple of weeks I have written a lot on aid. Some have asked why. My answer is simple. As I explained in a post written last week, the whole aim of the tax justice movement has always been to help countries that are aid dependent to move towards a situation where they can command their own revenues and resources in a way that will empower them to have control of their own destinies. What we wanted to do - and I can say this with certainty because I was one of those who created this idea - was to put aid agencies out of business except when it came to emergencies.
Oxfam is one of agencies that adopted that idea. So too did others.
That would never have stopped what happened in Haiti. That happened in an emergency. That did not excuse it in any way.
But when I read about people criticising agencies I wonder what they want.
I know for sure they want an end to exploitation. And I agree, wholeheartedly.
But if that is to happen we have a long way to go.
We have to presume countries with lower per capita incomes deserve our respect as much as other countries do. Unless that happens we will, knowingly or not, look down on them. And then exploitation happens. But this is completely counter-cultural in western societies at present where income too often determines status.
And we have to make sure these countries can collect the tax owing to them even though in most societies from which aid is sent avoiding tax is seen as a legitimate activity, and one that is even ‘smart’ and ‘the right thing to do’. This too then is completely counter cultural.
What is more, we must redistribute the grossly unequal ownership of the world’s wealth, because unless we do rents and profits will flow from many lower incone countries into the banks of London and New York and into the ownership of the populations who live in those places, as they do now. Which redistribution is, of course, completely counter cultural.
And we have to trade on equal terms. Which is counter cultural.
And we must let people move to learn and not just at universities, but also in employment. Which we are not at all inclined to do.
I make these points deliberately: we can get rid of what has been called development aid, which can, as some argue, perpetuate old, white, and colonial era stereotypes. But that requires the type of radical reform to trade, transparency, tax havens, wealth distribution and tax itself that the tax justice movement has called for. Nothing else will work.
And I admit what has irritated me of late is that many of those throwing accusations now are those who seem to be radically opposed to manyof these reforms which are a condition for removing aid.
I want a post-aid world. That is why I have worked for tax justice and all that it means. But, as far as I can see unless you buy into the counter-cultural reforms that tax justice demands then you can’t at the same time demand the end of aid without accepting responsibility for the massive injustices that will then follow.
In that case I want to know what the critics of aid now want, beyond an aid to the exceptional cases of abuse. I can’t see anyone coming forward and saying what that is as yet. And that, I think, is a deeply troubling aspect of the current debate on this issue because it means it is taking place in a vacuum.
NB: I am meetings all day today moderation may well be very slow. I will also have a very low threshold for deletion: I am bored with being trolled.