Thursday, 29 December 2011
Are We Less Inclined To Support Others?
In case you don't know - I didn't - the picture is of MP Nick Hurd, the minister for civic society.
Mr Hurd is angry because we are not giving enough to charity. I'm angry because he has the gall to accuse the British public of lacking in compassion because they won't fill charities' coffers.
Speaking in response to the British Social Attitudes survey published earlier this month that found that we have become less inclined to support others:
But he said that being the fifth most generous nation was not enough.
‘The Government’s role is not to tell people what to do, but we can make it easier and more compelling for people to give.’
Suddenly? I think not. Could it be that people are still smarting from the coalition's decision to spend increase funding, through the Department for International Development, for overseas aid and funding ridiculous UK projects? £8.1bn was spent by DfID this year and serious criticism about the administering of DfID's actions persists.
I have no problem with helping the world's poor if the money is directly helping people achieve better health or clamber out of desperate poverty, but it would seem DfID don't keep proper records of their spending activities. They churn out endless reports that suggest methods which could make sure the aid is reaching the source of projects, but action is minimal. The world's poor are by-passed in many massive wealth-transfer schemes.
The UK commitment to supporting overseas development will be 0.7% of gross national income from 2013. It may seem a mere drop in the UK's ocean of debt but when politicians have to defend their spending by saying "projects are old", it merely emphasises the massive amount of money that has been wasted in recent years.
But, if much of the money spent is not being used efficiently and producing results that benefit those in need, why do DfID continue to spend it? Until they introduce a system of accountability that accommodates publicly scrutiny, only projects which can offer evidence that donations have benefitted those in desperate need should be funded.
Annually I give to a small local charity. I know how much they spend on PR, salaries, office space and other administration. It's very clearly stated on their website. Haiti received or was pledged $11bn yet the world's unprecedented effort to rebuild it has turned into a disaster of good intentions.
Mr Hurd should give a little more thought about why we're donating less and not making the sweeping statement that we don't give enough. In my experience we're very generous, but maybe we're becoming more aware of where and how we place our hard-earned cash. Certainly I am and no lecture from any politician will make me change my behaviour.
Money follows the law of diminishing returns. Given any problem a little money often helps, but a lot usually doesn't help lots more. Are we less inclined to support others? I think not.