Post-Colonial arrogance: UK refuses to aid India in equitable growth

The government's decision to stop aid to India is the latest instalment in a history of ignoring India.


David Taylor is chair of the Labour Campaign for International Development (LCID)

The decision on Friday to withdraw UK aid to India beyond 2015 reveals a Secretary of State for International Development who is more concerned with the whims of her own MPs and the right-wing press than the wants of one third of the world’s poorest people.

It once again highlights the weak leadership, low ambition and poor vision that has come to characterise this government’s approach to development.

Friday also saw the OECD announce India, already a $1 trillion economy, may surpass the US over the long term – but they also predicted that, on current trends, the average Indian will still be four times poorer than the average Briton a full 50 years from now.

The Indian government must do more to share the proceeds of the country’s rapid growth. The governing Indian National Congress may not be our sister party but they are progressives and deserve credit for their Right to Education Act, their Rural Employment Guarantee social protection programme and for drawing up plans for a universal health care system based on our own NHS.

But to reduce India’s staggering inequality and ensure universal access for all, these programmes must be properly financed and comprehensively implemented.

Social Democrat-run Brazil demonstrates what can be achieved when a proper taxation system is established – their Bolsa Família social protection programme has cut the number of Brazilians living in poverty in half.

The Indian government must take the lead – but international partners including Britain could help provide useful technical assistance.

Whilst it is welcome Justine Greening is proposing such assistance, their values may get in the way of what is needed. Indian efforts to increase their tax base will hardly be helped by George Osborne’s decision to water down the UK’s anti-tax haven rules in this year’s budget – something ActionAid estimates will cost developing countries as much as £4 billion a year.

And their aversion to the public sector has seen them halve our funding for budget sector support – the very aid that helps countries build their own health and education systems by giving them the funds required to recruit and retain teachers, doctors and nurses – and one of their first acts in government was to axe Labour’s proposal for a Centre for Progressive Health Care Financing that would have supported poor countries to achieve universal access to health care.

Worst of all, as a panel of experts commissioned by Indian prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh has been drawing up proposals for a universal health care system modelled specifically on our own NHS, DFID India has been nowhere to be seen.

As the mother of all universal health care systems, there could surely be no better moment for Britain to offer technical expertise – and our government’s continued unwillingness to help is truly reprehensible.

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22 Responses to “Post-Colonial arrogance: UK refuses to aid India in equitable growth”

  1. Colin McCulloch

    As much as I loathe the abject the poverty there, I can’t really agree that India is our problem, particularly when they insist on spending their new wealth on nuclear weapons, a massive standing army and space exploration. India already has the wealth to implement socially progressive measures; it chooses to spend its money otherwise.

  2. JGH

    Sorry – where is the post-colonial arrogance bit?! I’d rather give money to countries that really have no resources to fund programmes themselves rather than aspiring super powers that buy aircraft carriers and choose not to feed their hungry.

  3. Garry Burns

    Post-Colonial arrogance??? That could be levelled at yourselves for assuming its our responsibility to support a country thats wealthier our own. Should we be giving aid to every country where the average person is less well off than the average Briton? Or do you have an out of date parochial attitude to ex-empire countries?

    We should support those countries who need it, not indulge in parental concern for our ‘imperial children’. India is old enough and grown up now to deal with its own problems.

  4. Brown Jedi

    Doesn’t Britain have any responsibility to its former colonies, whom she merrily plundered economically and raped cultural? Admittedly, India is a wealthier country, but it also several times more populous country.

  5. Brown Jedi

    I really wish British had this attitude when they ruled India. Then, they would have not demanded 50-60% taxes in the middle of a famine. They even went ahead and taxed sea-salt. India does need money to feed its hungry, it already has grains in surplus. It needs efficient infrastructure to isolated village.

  6. Brown Jedi

    I failed to see why India shouldn’t maintain nukes and armies, given that it is right next door to China and Pakistan. Both of whom are armed with nukes. Both of whom have fought have wars with India several times and are still in territorial disputes. This is not a choice, it is an urgent defensive need. As for India’s space exploration, it spends nowhere close to EU (5 billion USD) or US (17 billion USD) on space explorations, it spends about 800 millions USD.

  7. daggsat

    No! We have paid our debt a thousand times over to India and all other former colonial states. It’s history, not a very proud part of our history. But it wasn’t me or my father or grandfather that plundered India or anywhere.
    India spends millions or is that billions on a space programme whilst some of it’s children suffer. Don’t you think the Indian government may just have got it’s priorities wrong?
    Anyway don’t get all left-wing indignant. Greening is going to direct the ‘savings’ to other supposedly needy countries. So we Brits will be no better off.

  8. Colin McCulloch

    Regardless, it spends $800 million on going into space whilst people die on the streets of Calcutta. Our sins in India were great but it’s not our responsibility to bring the living standards of every citizen of the world up (or down) to that of the average UK citizen. There are far more deserving cases for aid out there; the pensioners of Zimbabwe who have been forgotten post-independence and now starve in their run down homes, for one example. Even “traditional” aid targets like Malawi, Botswana etc are better cases for aid than the second most populous nation and most heavily armed democracy (outside the US) in the world.

  9. Brown Jedi

    I am not saying that Britain should continue to pay reparations till kingdom come. But, I want to point out the rationale being given to stop the aid. “India can hold its own, let us nurture some other nations”. They have could have said, “Hey, sorry India and others, we are going through a bad times. Gotta leave you hanging.” As for who plundered India, the plundered riches did make it to the coffers of the Company and later the British government which trickled down to the commoners. I am surprised to see you claim that you have paid the debt of 250 years of brutality in 60 years and even 1000 times over.

  10. Brown Jedi

    I am not saying that Britain should continue to pay reparations till kingdom come. But, I want to point out the rationale being given to stop the aid. “India can hold its own, let us nurture some other nations”. They have could have said, “Hey, sorry India and others, we are going through a bad times. Gotta leave you hanging.”

    India is simply not burning 800 million in space research. It is actually bootstrapping other poorer client nations into space exploration by launching their satellites and sharing the tech. Even France, Italy and others are clients for whom they have launched satellites. This is an investment that is just beginning to pay off. India doesn’t need money to feed its hungry, it already has grains in surplus.It needs efficient infrastructure to reach isolated villages.

  11. daggsat

    What i’m saying dear Jedi, is i have zero blame for colonisation. Why should i pay for it. particularly when India is rolling in (ill-directed) money.
    Would you blame a 30, 40, 50 year old German for the Holocaust?

  12. daggsat

    Keep going jedi. Eventually you’ll convince yourself. You won’t convince me!

  13. Colin McCulloch

    I’m happy to help the poorest countries. I don’t want to help countries that choose to spend their resources on things they don’t need. You state that India needs infrastructure; I agree. I don’t agree that India needs our help to develop this. It has a massive economy and the fastest growing middle class (i.e. tax base) in the world. There is no help that we can give India that they can’t give themselves or import from partner states.

  14. Sabe

    Read “u.n a cosa nostra” which explains it all!

  15. Brown Jedi

    That is exactly point, why should a young Indian suffer in hunger and darkness. Because his colonial masters remembered to rob the nation and forgot about basic infrastructure needs. While, the resources they robbed was used to develop their own country. Britain should accept its crimes.

  16. Brown Jedi

    You know what India considers as middle class? Anyone earning 2300 GBP is taxable in India, compared to UK anyone below 8000 GBP is tax free. That’s only 6% of India’s total workforce. So, India taxes the poor to help the super-poor and even there are not many people to tax at all. So, wave your terms “fastest growing middle class” etc. all you want.

  17. Colin McCulloch

    India has been independent since 1947. That is ample time to get its act together and provide for its citizens. Britain certainly had a duty in the transition period, but we must focus our efforts at home and in other countries without the resources that India possesses.

    Your comments about income are noted, but bear in mind the costs of living in the UK and India vary markedly. £1 in India buys you a lot more than in the UK. Income is relative.

  18. piyu2cool

    Colin your post smacks of ignorance at best and arrogance at worst. Without nuclear weapons India will cease to exist. It needs a strong deterrent against anti India neighbors and India does have a long history of colonization at the hands of rogue rogue nations. As far as the space program goes, without it, much of the poor population will not have any access to communications and education. It is a must for upward mobility.

  19. piyu2cool

    Ample time? British were here for 150 years. Before that Muslims plundered India and destroyed Indian society for 700 years. Things won’t go to normal by a magic wand. India has come a long way. You are right Britain does not have any obligations to get involved with Indian affairs.

  20. Jimmy

    Britain committed many atrocities to India
    You ignoring that and being indignant is pretty insulting

  21. Colin McCulloch

    You’ll note that I acknowledged British atrocities in an earlier post. Britain’s obligations to India should go no further than technical assistance, not cash aid.

  22. Malik

    Here again British colonial arrogance speaks, when British could have left India peacefully they chose to partition it into several countries (like it did in palestine) and both these areas are some of the most volatile place on the planet today…If they din’t create Pakistan (or for that matter splitting palestine), the current definition and threat from terrorism globally wouldn’t exist and it need not not have had to main a large army and spend millions on nuclear weapons.

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