Billionaire says turn aid taps off

Last updated 13:58 18/09/2012
Lord Michael Ashcroft
DAN CHUNG/ Reuters
AID FLAWED: Lord Michael Ashcroft said aid "undermines progress" in developing countries.

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A billionaire lord has urged the British government to "turn off the golden taps" of foreign aid and stop pandering to "St Bob and Bono".

Lord Michael Ashcroft, who made his debut on the Forbes billionaire list this year with an estimated worth of $US1 billion, has written an open letter to newly-appointed International Development Secretary Justine Greening, cheekily signing off "Michael xx".

"At a time when libraries are being closed and people with disabilities face benefit cuts, there is growing fury over giving away ever-increasing sums to foreigners," Lord Ashcroft wrote in the letter, published on a conservative blog.

Lord Ashcroft, a government adviser and major Tory donor, once held the record for the largest private donation to an Australian political party, having given the Liberal Party A$1 million in 2004.

In the letter published yesterday, Lord Ashcroft wrote he had spent much of his life travelling in Africa, Asia and South America and saw the "grinding" poverty.

"If aid worked, I would endorse the government's attempts to cosy up to St Bob and Bono.

"But I have always approached politics in the same way I approach business - relying on rigorous analysis of all available evidence.

"That is why I am urging you to do the same, since it is clear Britain's approach to aid is flawed and self-defeating.

"So I urge you to recommend to the prime minister to turn off the golden taps and stop flooding the developing world with our money."

Ms Greening is heading an audit into revelations that consultancy firms working on Third World programs have been paid millions of dollars from the foreign aid budget, The Daily Mail reported.

She has asked that the spending of the Department of International Development (DfID) be reviewed "line by line".

Lord Ashcroft's letter went on to say that aid from Western nations "undermines progress".

"As it is often said, you cannot build democracy on other people's money.

"Aid corrodes civil society and encourages corruption and conflict.

Before signing off with two kisses, he wrote: "Don't allow your agenda to be determined by self-aggrandising pop stars and self-interested lobby groups.

"If you really care about international development then you will shift your new department's focus towards a modern outlook that recognises the emerging shape of the world."

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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