Daily archives: March 9, 2011

Uncharitable Thoughts

Central Asian friends of ours thought that all their dreams had come true when they won a green card and went to live in Florida. But reality soon caught up – living in a cramped room, and no work. Their baby soon got seriously ill, but they were turned away from hospital as they had no money. The baby got worse. Eventually they were seen at a charity clinic but by that stage the baby needed urgent hospital admission. In desperation they turned to us; we were having a hard time ourselves, but I scraped together some money.

The wife – who is well qualified and fluent in English – told me she had applied for many jobs. Even for toilet cleaning and dishwashing she had been turned down flat. She said that she had, on almost every occasion, been asked straight out whether she was a Muslim. They had chosen Florida because of the Disneyland posters.

The baby is now fine and their financial situation is improving because the husband has joined the US Army. Think of that next time you hear of US troops in Afghanistan; some of them are there from deepest despair.

Of course, many poor children die in the US every year because of inadequate healthcare. But should British taxpayers fund their healthcare? No, of course not. It will be plain to you I am using that sad but quite true story to introduce a reductio ad absurdum to try to counter the knee jerk liberal/left reaction that it would be wrong to stop giving aid to India.

Last week India tested its missile interceptor shield – a US $11 billion programme. That was the moment that did it for me. Of course, there is nowhere in the world that there are not people who need help. But if India taxed people earning over US $50,000 per year at the same rate that the UK does, that would bring in extra revenue approximately 70 times the amount the UK gives India in aid.

I don’t suggest that as a formal test, but it is an increasing indicator. If Ghana for example charged those earning over US $50,000 at the same rate the UK does, that would not amount in extra income to as much as just once the amount the UK gives Ghana in aid.

I am only suggesting an indicator, not advocating those tax increases. And I don’t think that our aid plans should be cut -merely given only to countries that really can’t help themselves.

On the subject of misuse of funds in BRIC countries, here is a quite astonishing statistic that indicates monumental corruption on a scale it is hard to get the mind around – there are 67 dollar billionaires who are members of China’s People’s Assembly. That is a great many more than there are in the whole of the UK.

But a fascinating thing is that I learnt that from China’s atate broadcaster, CCTV, where it was discussed quite openly as an example of “Misuse of influence”. A few hours of CCTV is rewarding viewing. You will certainly learn the point of view of the Chinese government, but discussion both of China and of world affairs really is surprisingly free, and the overall level of bias is much less, and certianly much less shrill, than Fox News. Presumably as it is in English, the authorities are much more relaxed about it than they are about internal media.

CCTV is in large part aimed at Africa. In Ghana, for example, BBC, CNN, Sky and Al Jazeera are all available by satellite with a subscription, but the Chinese Government pays the South African satellite provider (covering all sub-Saharan Africa) to make CCTV available without subscription to anyone with a satellite receiver. Possession of a receiver and old dish but no subscription is very common, especially in local bars and other communal spaces where many watch their TV.


More teething problems on new site this morning, it won’t let me add any new posts. If it doesn’t get cleared in a couple of hours I’ll add the new article to the bottom of this one as a temporary fix.

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