28 Jun 2010

Eight into 20 doesn't go: or will it?

To an increasing number of people, the G8 is an anachronism. They argue that the vehicle that has brought the world from the old East West World to the new world of East West North South becomes more obviously in need of retirement every time it meets.

One of the reasons why it sustains is because it is well run, small, and boasts an effective Secretariat. The Toronto meetings of both the G8 and 20 failed to resolve the issue. There is still not the structure that rendered the G8 a success in place to provide the same service for the G20.

But there are other strange dynamics that flow from the gathering strength of the G20 as a global leadership forum. The UK, France, and the US, for example provide aid programmes in a number of the other member nations of the G20.

Amid the all-party domestic consensus surrounding the UK aid programme there is so far little discussion of the reality that one of the biggest elements of the programme flows to one of the world’s top emerging economies – India.

By far the biggest recipient of British aid anywhere in the world, India is currently experiencing economic growth of a hugely enviable 8 per cent a year. Britain is staggering along at around 1 per cent.

There can be little moral argument against a post-imperial order in which what is still one of the world’s richest economies (the UK is still the 4th biggest economy in the world, and the 6th biggest manufacturing power) giving aid to a country with 600 million of whose people rank amongst the very poorest on the planet.

The moral argument may be simple, but for how much longer will a country with growing unemployment, looming social and economic deprivation, and continuing high levels of immigration from the Indian subcontinent, accept the “ring fencing” of a budget that is devoted to assisting a country that in the long term threatens to overhaul their own?

It’s a crude point but no less real for that. In the short and medium term, Minister may have an “education job” on its own populace to maintain the highly effective UK aid programmes in Indian states like Bihar.


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