Whenever the Department for International Development is given public attention, it is usually for sending our hard-earned taxpayers’ money abroad to foreign dictators, instead of to those who genuinely need it – the poorest and most vulnerable in the world. Many people also rightly argue that charity should start at home because – whilst poverty has been massively reduced as a result of free market capitalism – we still have some who need desperately need our help in our own country. Another thing highlighted is the ridiculous £45 million spent on the department staff’s bonuses over a five-year period.
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, made an excellent move promoting Priti Patel to Secretary of State for International Development. This is a department of which Mrs Patel has been a longstanding critic for its wasteful spending, and she is definitely the best person to lead it down a better path.
Now that we have voted to leave the European Union and to take back control of our own affairs, we need to get on with the job of creating a brighter future for everyone, not just the privileged few. Building brand new free trade deals with our allies, across the Commonwealth, and the fastest growing economies in the world is a core part of this mission.
Priti Patel has proposed leveraging £11 billion of the foreign aid budget to build new trade deals after Brexit, and will use meetings with foreign leaders from countries that receive foreign aid to open the door to new deals. After all, our international aid commitments mean that we get great access to foreign leaders all round the world.
Our foreign aid budget has been ballooning in recent years, whilst other government departments have had to make necessary efficiencies to help balance the nation’s books. In fact, the DFID budget next year is forecast to overtake the amount given to councils to collect bins, install street lights and run local services and is ten times larger than the Foreign & Commonwealth Office budget.
We clearly need a completely fresh way of looking at Britain's aid budget. Using our aid budget to help our trading partners of the future and to start new conversations about trade would be a great way of investing in our national interest, whilst also helping the poorest people in the world. By supporting economic prosperity, stability and security overseas, it would make us more outward-looking than ever before and deepen our international partnerships to secure our new place in the world.
I fully agree with Mrs Patel’s statement that “We will continue to tackle the great challenges of our time: poverty, disease and the causes of mass migration, while helping to create millions of jobs in countries across the developing world - our trading partners of the future.” In the long-term, however, I believe that we should look to replace the DFID with a Department for International Trade and Development, as the two policy areas need to be better interconnected.
As a Christian and Conservative, I am proud of the rewarding work our foreign aid budget does to help the poorest and most vulnerable in the world. We are a global and compassionate country and we should aim to uphold this as part of our national identity. We need to recognise, however, that trade is a much better way of helping poorer countries. Free market capitalism and integration into the world market has helped lift millions out of war, disease and poverty.
We must use Britain’s development links as a way of lubricating trade liberalisation around the world. What we are witnessing is a huge appetite to sign trade deals with the UK now that we are freeing ourselves from the shackles of Brussels. The faster that process begins, the better for everyone.
Joe Porter is a Parish Councillor in Staffordshire Moorlands and Deputy Chairman (Political) for West Midlands Conservative Future. He was the President of Keele Students for Britain and the Vote Leave Constituency Campaign Coordinator for Staffordshire Moorlands. Joe studies Marketing and Politics at Keele University, where he has a particular passion for local British politics and is a Trustee of Keele Student Union. He is currently involved in a brand new campaign to get the best Brexit deal for young people.