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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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