Earlier this week, the Daily Mail accused the British government of squandering foreign aid abroad. ‘More than £1 billion of our foreign-aid budget has been given away in cash over the past five years’, it claimed.
It took umbrage at one scheme in particular: the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), which provides families in Pakistan with 1,000 Rupees per month with the objective of ‘smoothening and cushioning the negative effects of slow economic growth, the food crisis and inflation on the poor, particularly women’.
Tory MP Nigel Evans, who sits on the Commons International Development Committee, told the Mail that BISP was simply ‘exporting the dole to Pakistan’. Evans called on the secretary of state for international development, Priti Patel, to ‘ensure that there is proper accounting for how this money is being delivered’.
This is part of an ongoing debate about foreign aid. In December, the Mail alleged that the foreign-aid contractor Adam Smith International had faked letters to MPs in order to acquire funding for foreign-aid projects (an allegation the company strongly denies as false and defamatory). Patel responded by demanding that all UK aid suppliers provide details of their spending. The fuss over BISP is just the latest criticism of overseas aid.
Responses from both sides have been extreme. Critics say aid comes at the cost of domestic social care. ‘Utterly beyond belief. Veterans here are homeless yet God knows who draws money from foreign-aid cashpoints overseas’, tweeted UKIP deputy chair Suzanne Evans. On the other hand, critics of the Mail have labelled its coverage of aid as xenophobic, and supporters of the campaign Stop Funding Hate have upped the ante with calls to boycott the paper.