Report reveals how foreign aid funds squandered

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The UK remains just one of five countries that puts aside the UN recommended 0.7% of its budget for foreign aid. There are plenty of people who welcome this, as the right thing to do for those facing incredible life-threatening hardships around the world. However, a new report could radically change their view, by revealing some of the bizarre ways this money is being squandered.

The report, in The Sun, highlighted some of the ridiculous projects funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Perhaps the oddest was the search to find mates for tropical fish off the coast of Africa.

They also discovered we are funding an anti-littering campaign in Jordan, paying for a touring group to perform Shakespeare in Ecuador, and spending on initiatives to 'empower' museum professionals in India. The list of oddities continues, with English lessons for young footballers in Uruguay, a mural in a rain shelter in Montserrat and a fashion event in Paraguay.

Around 87% of the government's entire aid budget is managed by the Department for International Development, and goes to 1.4 billion people around the world living in poverty. The work delivered internationally has been hailed by the experts as life-changing, and has, for example, saved three million children under the age of five from dying of malaria between 2000 and 2012. Oxfam has highlighted that with a billion people living in poverty, and the challenges posed by climate change, the need for this aid is greater than ever before.

The other 13% of the budget is distributed by other departments - including the FCO - and it's here that things have been going awry. Thanks to the FCO, we have spent £14,000 on a game show that aims to teach young people in Egypt about British values, and £13,000 to measure the carbon footprint of the Dakar rally. This would be almost laughable if it wasn't for the great seriousness of the savage cuts being imposed in the UK at the same time.

These cuts have left tens of thousands of people in such desperate situations that they have been forced to turn to food banks. They distributed enough emergency food to feed almost 1.1 million people for three days in the past year - up almost a fifth from a year earlier. At the same time there were up to a million benefits sanctions imposed on people on very low incomes, which Rachael Orr, head of Oxfam's UK poverty programme, says fuelled much of the increased use of food banks. In some extreme cases, cuts have even contributed to the deaths of those who have not received welfare payments.

In response to the revelations, a Foreign Office official agreed that some of these overseas projects were frivolous and while the vast majority of aid projects were value for money and in people's interests to invest in: "Clearly there are going to have to be some changes to tighten up the approvals and authorisation process." A spokesperson told The Daily Mail: "The vast majority of aid spending promotes UK prosperity and broader stability but there will be a crackdown on projects that cannot show taxpayers' cash is being spent wisely".

But what do you think? If the spending is properly targeted at those in dire need around the world, are you happy for the aid budget to be so generous, or has the situation in the UK become so dire, that there are people in poverty in this country who need help as a priority? Let us know in the comments.

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Report reveals how foreign aid funds squandered

If you're a politician, you could perhaps fudge things in a brief conversation by describing yourself as a campaigner, then wheeling out a pet cause that nobody could really object to.

Generally, though, there's nowhere you can really hide. Console yourself with the fact that most of the time you'll only be meeting kindred souls who are all in favour of your plans to dish out handouts to the undeserving while clobbering decent people.

Once the election's over, after all, you can avoid your awful constituents for another five years.

They always seem to call during dinner and they won't take no for an answer: it's no wonder telemarketers appear on the list. If you are one and want to disguise it, the best way is probably to break the news gradually. Start with "I work in finance"; move on with "I'm a sales consultant"; and only once you're sure you can get away with it, admit you badger people about PPI.

"The suckiest thing was when people would insult my intelligence based solely upon my job," writes one poster on a jobs forum; sign up for an evening course and tell people you're working to pay your way through college.

All of the above apply to door-to-door sales, too - but with the handicap that you're more likely to have somebody recognise you and blow your cover. Wear a disguise at work.

Recently, one Patrick Sheehy wrote indignantly in the Guardian about his appearance in the famous 2011 photograph Bankers at Leadenhall Market.

"I like this photograph, but the fact the photographer called it Bankers at Leadenhall Market irritates me. I recognise every face in this picture and not one is a banker," he wrote. "Everyone in the photograph actually works in insurance."

Most people wouldn't see much of a distinction; but what this shows is that even to someone at the heart of the financial industry, the accusation of being a banker is too much to bear.

As with politicians, though, you're likely to do most of your socialising in situations where your job - and the pay packet that goes with it - is more than acceptable. Otherwise, a clever use of syntax may do the job: "I work in a bank" and a mention of "the manager" could give the impression that you're counter staff.

The Northern Echo recently catalogued some of the insults and assaults experienced by local traffic wardens. They included death threats, a head-butting, and even a case where two female wardens were sprayed with deodorants that were then used as flame-throwers towards them. They are frequently pushed or spat at.

Out of uniform, you can always describe yourself as a public servant, or even a road safety worker - and just pray nobody ever sees you at work.


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