Practical, if not socially just

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If I had a pound for every street person who has approached me, I’d be collared and wealthy. Wealthy enough in spirit to return that generosity and then some.

Could UK-born beggars check the border control points and their local communities for illegal immigrants? Firstly, it would help them earn a living wage. And secondly, it would make the life for all UK-born beggars just that little bit easier.

Street can be the depths of seduction or the depths of despair. Street runs both ways. Street can be chic. Street can be shut-ended. Street is wise beyond its years.


UK Annual Foreign Aid Budget – a triumph of political pride over political reality

Why would any political party in the UK try to enshrine in law, a commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on foreign aid? Especially when other UK government budgets are being capped or cut, to meet austerity targets?

The UK recently joined the ‘G07’ group of countries (Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands & the UK) who now give 0.7% (£11.4B in the UK’s case in 2013, a 30.5% rise from the prior year) of gross national income in foreign aid. Of the £11.4B given in foreign aid, £2.3B went to African countries and £1.7B to Asian countries.

Comparing those same G07 countries in 2013 on a GDP/capita basis in USD equivalents showed a wide difference between the UK and the others.


GDP in
Luxemburg          111,162
Denmark             58,894
Sweden             58,269
Netherlands             47,617
UK             39,337
Simple Average             63,056

Also, it’s worth noting two other things – firstly, there were a further 15 countries with GDP/capita higher than the UK, that don’t make it into the G07 list. These included USA, Germany & France. And secondly, on a GDP per capita, based on purchasing power parity (takes into account the cost of living in each country), the UK sat at number 26 on that list.

Then there is the wider debate about how effective giving foreign aid is and how some of that money could be instead spent on worthy aid projects in the home country. Perhaps the most important point is that no EU or UK politician has the right to protect the UK foreign aid budget from cuts, when other government budgets are necessarily being cut.

Another important point is that there needs to be wider public debate about how much the UK spends on border control (has suffered budget cuts already), the consequences of inadequate border control and the foreign aid budget (a 30.5% rise over 2012), which David Cameron claims minimises the flow of refugees into the UK.

Some complimentary or mutually exclusive suggestions for the future foreign aid budget:

  1. The UK adjusts its foreign aid contribution to its ranking of GDP per capita in purchasing power parity. When more, richer per capita nations raise their contributions, the UK can then proportionately raise its foreign aid contributions also.


  1. The UK promptly terminates the £11.4B foreign aid budget and instead states that the rising contribution it makes to fund the EU government in Brussels now includes the UK’s contribution towards foreign aid and EU border control, leaving it to the EU government to make efficiency savings and fund an EU foreign aid spend on behalf of all EU members.


  1. The UK promptly terminates foreign aid to any country engaging in large scale military or space exploration projects. India is a prime example of the later.


  1. The UK promptly deducts from its foreign aid budget each year, all costs associated with returning refused asylum-seekers to their home country and processing foreign nationals in the UK Justice system (asylum hearings, prisons etc).


  1. The UK government creates a formula where, as the overall cost relating to seeking asylum in the UK rises, the overall foreign aid budget falls by the same monetary value.


  1. The UK government commissions a study into how the impact on the foreign aid budget could be increased significantly. For example, how could far more of this budget be spent directly reducing or bypassing corruption in the parts of the World receiving foreign aid, before money is given to help beneficiaries in those same countries.


Weblink references

UK Social Comment 3

Match fixing in sport is at best, the height of short-term thinking. Sport by definition is about competitive, but fair play. Changing the players’ incentives dissolves the purpose of the event.

What’s worse; UK football players (Sturridge, Wellbeck & Sterling excepted) with no real hunger to win for their country in the World Cup, or the UK national selectors who simply don’t have the courage to select a team with less apparent talent, but hugely more hunger to win?

Rags to riches to rags in 3 generations. Parental fulfilment; riches to rags to riches in the first 3 decades of your children’s lives.

Countries that construct laws that they don’t apply rigorously and fairly, cease being taken seriously by outsider onlookers (especially potential investors & skilled migrants).

Why in this day and age, do some governments appear to willingly let default rule over design? The UK is facing persistent (and successful) immigration of illegal migrants, who fled their home country because of persecution and prejudice. Yet when those illegal migrants arrive in the UK, ironically they see evidence of police corruption (eg London Met Police), significant criminal re-offending & hardliners taking over UK school curriculums with impunity (Birmingham).

Migrating outside the box

At least three good things and five not so good things silently cross a country’s borders each day.
The three good things are; ideas, financial capital (investments, money, payments) and skills (held by highly sought-after employees and entrepreneurs).
The five not so good things are: smuggled drugs, smuggled weapons, cyber-crime, pollution and people (smuggled across borders).

Even amongst the three good things, can you have too much of a good thing moving between countries? If skills migrate too rapidly between countries, perhaps there is a loss of stability, a loss of momentum, a loss of investor confidence and/or a loss of a country’s ability to differentiate itself from others (a threat to its tourism industry?).

Offsetting the ‘fast follower’ duplication of skills, you can also have skills migrating one way and ideas migrating the other causing specialisation. For example the growth of a highly-skilled research and development industry (including higher education) in one country and the growth of a mass-production economy in another country.

Perhaps governments need to re-form the debate about border controls to separate the three favourable things from the others. That would lead to re-focussing border-control resources to be effective in limiting the five not so good things, but streamlining the flow of the three good things.

To limit the flow of the not so good things, you can try and stop the flow at its source, in transit or at the destination. Perhaps trading blocks should re-form around the wider border necessary to limit the flow at the wider border level and also pool the ’border control money’ from the bloc membership, to spend the total amount more effectively at source, in transit and at destination, to get the best outcome. Also, it almost goes without saying, that rationally, the laws applying to the trading block should support this approach and not undermine it.

Interestingly, four out of five of the not so good border flows; smuggled drugs, smuggled weapons, cyber-crime and people (smuggled across borders) are driven by economic incentives, while pollution is the result of production (or commuting), which itself is driven by economic incentives. That said, some people smuggling may be as much because the people are social-value migrants (escaping persecution, sexism and prejudice) as much as they are economic migrants, seeking a higher standard of living for their families.

So how do you fund a more effective border control service?
Firstly, use the proceeds of crime (and pollution taxes) from those five not so good border crossing things, to reduce the economic incentives for the initiators.

Secondly, return smuggled people to their home countries and penalise those same home country governments who cause their citizens to flee, by withholding foreign aid money. In addition, perhaps a more effective way to distribute aid money is to donate it directly to the relief charities (and strongly encourage them to convert it into goods at the first opportunity) who are committed to cope with welfare problems created for people fleeing the home country.

What it that isn’t enough money to help?
Another source of funds is the foreign aid money otherwise going to countries who are not using it effectively (corruption), or choosing to spend scarce government money building nuclear weapons arsenals and prestigious space programmes. Suggest that if the trading block as a whole pools their foreign aid money, the actions and impacts will be maximised and not work at cross purposes.

What about failed-nation states, that have simply ceased functioning as a nation and instead fractured into a series of small tribal fiefdoms?
Perhaps an opportunity exists to set up walled UN cities in such locations, using donated green energy infrastructure, defended by UN troops, with UN funding to rebuilding the state around them into some kind of environment that allows the failed-nation citizens to enjoy the freedoms as outlined in the UN charter of human rights. Such UN cities could also become the final destination for the select group of refugees escaping their home country on humanitarian grounds (not economic or social value).

Wouldn’t building UN cities on sovereign land amount to an invasion?
If build in desert type locations, the land use is limited in any case. Also, by establishing defence, education, health and infrastructure services, it’s likely the majority of the failed-nation citizens would see the benefits as at least matching the loss of land to UN control. A side benefit is that holding future UN meetings at such city locations would bring the issues into close personal focus for the attendees.

Food for thought?