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British Expat Newsletter:
21 December 2005

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Aid project
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

“Aid projects” came to mind as a good topic for discussion in this week’s newletter. As an ex-aid worker myself, I’ve seen first-hand how aid money can be squandered and never benefit the intended recipients. I know that many of you will have tales to tell of corruption and waste. And sometimes just plain stupidity.

This is well documented in Graham Hancock’s 1989 book: “Lords of Poverty: Free-wheeling Lifestyles, Power, Prestige and Corruption of the Multi-million Dollar Aid Business”. OK, it’s not a recent book but I doubt if the “business” has changed so much, despite talk of “sustainable development”, “capacity-building”, “ownership” and so on. Having been out of the industry for several years, I’m not sure what the latest buzz words are. If any of our readers are currently active in the aid sector, we’d love to hear some of the jargon that’s flying around UNDP offices these days…

Perhaps I’m too cynical. Certainly I had a far better lifestyle while working overseas on aid projects than I ever did in the UK. And I won’t bore you with all the cases I saw where money was siphoned off, diverted to other purposes or simply poured down the drain. Nevertheless, I still wouldn’t go as far as some of the more rabid libertarians in the US, who argue that government spending on overseas development assistance (ODA) is by definition a waste of money and is necessarily positively harmful. As far as I can see that’s just an excuse to keep taxation low and encourage “aid” through other channels, ie by sending goods in kind or technical assistance bought from, and delivered through, US companies. In which case, the “aid” may or may not provide any genuine benefit to the recipient country.

The UK government’s own attitude towards aid seems to have undergone quite a shift in the last ten years. For starters, they’re spending more on it. But they’ve also changed the focus of their spending, at least twice. First of all they moved away from capital projects (anyone remember the Pergau Dam in Malaysia? We build them a dam, they buy our military aircraft…) towards capacity-building – increasing the ability of the recipient country to receive support. Since then they’ve shifted again towards project assistance – but only as part of an overall country assistance plan agreed with the recipient government, other stakeholders in the recipient country, and the “donor community”. And if you believe the performance reports they regularly publish, they’re doing pretty well.

But it’s not always like that. Emergency aid is much harder to focus effectively, as you’d expect – it has to be delivered by improvisational means, on the basis of information which is either incomplete or lacking altogether. Take last year’s tsunami, for instance. According to Oxfam, only a fifth of the people made homeless are now in satisfactory permanent accommodation – because the aid agencies followed the wishes of the local people who said that was what they wanted. If they’d built transitional housing, as they’re now doing, progress in getting people out of tents would have been quicker.

However, there is hope for the future – at least in a small community in northern Tanzania. One of the many articles we added to the site this week was by Ian Williamson about a Tanzanian “Community in Crisis”. The community is desperately poor yet they don’t want your money. They have found that funders used them for political gain. And anyway, the money got spent and the problems remained. Instead, they set up a charity aimed at communities helping themselves.
A Community in Crisis

They do this by organising safari tours (responsible tourism) and offering volunteer placements. Have a look at their website for more information about this worthwhile project – there’s a link below this paragraph. Meanwhile, even though you don’t want to visit Tanzania, there are plenty of little things you could do to improve the lives of the Arusha people. Many of the children are destitute and unloved and unwanted. One young lad received a letter from an 11-year-old in Liverpool. The letter is his most treasured possession. So please have a look and see if there’s anything you could do to improve the lives of this community.
[Obsolete link removed]

Do you have anything to say about this topic, or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us about it?

Virtual Snacks

Rather than me trying to set out UK government policy on overseas aid, why don’t you find out what they’ve got to say for themselves on it?

And here’s the point of view of rabid US neocon libertarians the American Institute of Economic Research – the political and economic counterparts of all those survivalists up in their bunkers in the Rocky Mountains. Be warned, though, it’s even heavier reading than the DFID site!

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • wight & calendar & nude
  • how to boil thai food
  • sex organs of the rooster
  • santa s grotty grotto
  • masturbation blood pressure link
  • people doing mad stuff
  • caffeine photoes
  • mariah carey’scarer
  • christmas season in old england lambswool could be found in the houses of the well-to-do.what was it?
  • leisure in jesus s time
  • brian clough tell him he s pele
  • marilyn monroe iq

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

British Expat Magazine


“They take the paper and they read the headlines,
so they’ve heard of unemployment and they’ve heard of bread lines,
and they philanthropically cure them all
by getting up a costume charity ball.”

– Ogden Nash, American writer of humorous poetry (1902-1971)


An Act Of Charity

One Sunday a minister asked his congregation to consider giving a little extra in the offering plate. He said that whoever gave the most would be able to pick out three hymns.

After the offering plates were passed, the minister glanced down and noticed that someone had contributed a £1,000 cheque. He was so excited that he immediately shared his joy with his congregation, and said he’d like to personally thank the person who had placed the cheque in the plate.

A very quiet, elderly, saintly, widow shyly raised her hand. The minister asked her to come to the front. Slowly she made her way to the minister. He told her how wonderful it was that she gave so much and asked her to pick out three hymns.

Her eyes brightened as she looked over the congregation, pointed to the three handsomest men in the kirk and said, “I’ll take him and him and him.”

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