The paper's bizarre find-cash-quick scheme sinks - then plumbs the depths
‘UK taxes blown on lonely fish in Africa… But our military is cut to the bone’
As might not be clear, the paper is arguing the government wastes foreign aid money on silly things while the defence budget is being cut.
If the connection between the two things still seems strange, it’s worth bearing in mind that defence secretary, Michael ‘stab-in-the-back’ Fallon, has suggested the budgets for foreign aid and defence be blurred to reach NATO’s recommended 2 per cent of GDP spending target.
Helpfully, the Sun has launched a campaign – ‘Forces not Farces’ – to call on the government to do, er, what it was already planning to do.
But back to the fish. It seems the foreign office spent £3,400 to help protect and breed a rare tropical fish at risk of extinction. That’s £3,400 out of a total foreign aid budget of £11.7billion.
Another case on the Sun’s charge sheet:
“The department also gave £2,042-worth of free tickets to children for a Hamlet production in the earthquake-ravaged Caribbean nation of Haiti.”
What a heartless newspaper this is! Let Nemo die and no Hamlet for the Haitian kids!
More amusing is the Sun’s ‘evidence’ this money could pay for more worthy things at home – the entire burden of their argument.
It takes one of the most expensive of its cases, £51,564 on UK work experience for people from Serbia, and says this ‘could have bought advanced armour for 50 British troops’. For an army of 90,000 (and that’s just regular forces), this seems hardly worth ditching the Serbs.
And shouldn’t UK troops have the best armour available regardless?
It goes on:
“£30,000 spent ’empowering Indian museum professionals’ – could have paid a nurse on £21,692 for 15 months.”
One nurse! For just over a year! And on a starting salary at that. This is desperate stuff.
They only provide two more examples – £99,800 on shale gas drilling regulations in China ‘could have built five mini-roundabouts’, and £3,104 spent on English training for Uruguayan footballers ‘could have bought two lampposts’.
Some of this foreign aid spending is very odd indeed, and it would be fascinating to know what the FCO was up to. But the amount of money involved is minuscule in terms of the aid budget, let alone government spending generally. And the army should be properly funded regardless.
Meanwhile, the Sun’s attempts to show this money could buy us all sorts of goodies is laughable.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter
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