Our holier-than-thou government

Keith Hudson

At the coming week-end’s G7 Conference of Leaders in an idyllic part of Bavaria (and I bet the meals are lovely, too) David Cameron is going to place the corruption of Fifa onto an already crowded agenda ranging from future . . . Ebola outbreaks through to rampant migration into Europe.  He says: �Corruption is the arch-enemy of democracy and development” . . . and some more phrases of a similar platitudinous nature.

Notice that he doesn’t say: “We ought to clean-up Fifa for the sake of millions of working class soccer fans in our countries and which would also  help the African countries more effectively by developing soccer there than any of the schemes that we have been spending billions on ever since the 1960s but which have disappeared into the pockets of African politicians and officials.”

What he’s really saying is a coded message to his own Tory MPs he’s left back here while he is enjoying Bavaria: “I know you are becoming increasingly angry (and in fact threaten to split the government wide open unless we change our policy) — and that we are spending more on giving aid to Africa and elsewhere than any other advanced country, especially when the Chancellor is going to apply even more austerity measures on the country and that the �8 or �9 billion we plan to spend in the next financial year on aid would be best applied to reducing the national debt.”

I’ve no doubt, in fact, that Chancellor George Osborne has been whispering a few quiet words in his ear: “David, we made far too many promises during the Election campaign and I think it’s going to be impossible for me to find half the money unless we start clamping down hard on every possible expenditure.”

There have only been two serious initiatives for development in Africa since the Second World War (as far as I’m aware).  One was a relatively minor one — though a very major one for the country that was giving the aid — Israel — a very small, brand new country that was still in the early stages of its own development.  Israel set up model farms and training courses for Africans.  I was told this personally some 20 years ago by the man who actually led this operation. What happened? The highly productive, highly profitable farms that the Israeli development team had set up fell kinto rack and ruin within two or three years.

The second are the vast developmental operations — roads, railways, bridges, schools, etc — being carried out now by the Chinese government in Africa in order to get at the vast quantities of copper and other resources there.  But even the Chinese haven’t been able to get enough Africans to take over the supervision of these projects.  The result is that well over one million Chinese have had to be drafted into Africa to keep these operations going satisfactorily.

Who knows what the final results will be?  Maybe, if China eases back on its requirements in the coming years (it is curtting back on its exports and certainly Australia is already feeling the pinch) it, too, might give up operations in Africa like the Israeli government.

Africa has never had any civilizations worth speaking of in anywhere near the same breath as the scores of different comparatively high-level civilizations of EurAsia and MesoAmerica in the last 8,000 years.  It’s not yet in the African culture.  They’re not hunter-gatherers any longer, it’s true, but most of Africa is still intensely tribalistic — and, if anything, rather more than than some tribal regions that are still left in the Islamic countries of the Middle East and north Africa.  Both of these cultures, African and Muslim, depending on epigenetic inheritance, will take a long time to breed out.

There seems to be no reason at all why African countries can’t develop in due course in the way that politicians and economists of the West want them to.  In Britain it took 400 years to develop the present passably civilized country from the tribalism of Tudor times — via vicious bouts of religious savagery and one civil war — and even now, with the truluy enormous economic and technological disparity of the London-Cambridge-Oxford box from the rest of the country we may be re-tribalising!

In any case, I think we can expect the holier-tnan-thou Tory government of this country will be easing back on development aid to Africa (mostly) and elsewhere well before the end of their present five-year term. Starting soon after Cameron returns from Bavaria, I imagine.

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