This week on the blog, our fundraising and events consultant, Mark Hoda, discusses the ever-thought-provoking issue of aid and trade with India. Feel free to respond to his post in a comment below, and always keep in mind that this reflects Mark’s personal opinion and should not be taken as representing those of Jeevika.
New International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, addressed the issue of Britain’s trade and aid relationship with India earlier this month at the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Birmingham.
In response to criticism of the UK’s aid programme in India, she signalled that the basis of the relationship needs to move from ‘aid to trade’ as India becomes more prosperous. “Those are the discussions I am having with the Indian government at the moment,” she said.
Jeevika’s contribution to this debate
By very happy coincidence, at the end of this month, Jeevika is holding a corporate reception with guest speaker, Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable, which will address this very issue of whether trade and aid should be linked and, if so, how.
Recent debate in the media about aid to India has cited its nuclear, space and overseas aid programmes as evidence that it does not need UK aid. However, isn’t Indian Government spending on high tech science and energy infrastructure vital to economic growth, just as it is for the UK?
Also, what is totally missing from the media is the extent of India’s poverty. Three hundred million Indian villagers live below the poverty line. This is equal to the total population of the United States, and greater than that of Brazil.
How can Justine Greening’s department fulfil its mission (“to lead the UK’s fight against global poverty”) if it does not continue to support projects in the world’s biggest poverty trap?
The benefits of aid and trade
In my view, the issue of trade and aid should also not be seen in either/or terms but as a symbiotic relationship. The UK Government and corporate sector should work with NGOs to deliver livelihood projects that provide a sustainable route out of poverty for India’s rural communities.
As well as helping to alleviate great human suffering, over time such aid interventions will also foster strong trade by opening up a vast, untapped market for British goods and services.
Photo of Justine Greening courtesy of The Guardian.