Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A Different Sort of Pupil Premium

Over on Lib Dem Voice, Nick Clegg has been writing about his visit to Mozambique with Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for International Development (DFID).

He talks of his pride in delivering on the Liberal Democrat's manifesto commitment to meet our international commitments to fund Overseas Development to the tune of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI). He mentions how it is political controversial (amongst some at least; particularly when there is so much austerity at home), but believes it is right.

And he is to do so.

All three major parties committed to the target at the last general election, with Labour and the Lib Dems committing to additional spending in connection with Climate Change issues - the Tories merely saying they would make their aid "Climate Smart".

I'm not going to contend that had the Tories been in Government themselves that they would have reneged on this _ I don't think they would have, although progress may have been slower - but they would certainly have come under pressure from a vocal wing of their party to do so. And the overall budget for DFID has decreased as the economy remains week.

But, for all our own problems, we have retained our commitment and will, reportedly, be the first G8 country to meet the UN target.

And we should be proud of that.

International Aid - properly targeted - can bring huge benefits. Not just to the individuals and communities that benefit but to us too. Such aid should be seen as a long-term investment which will reap rewards in improved governance within the developing world, improved relations between the West and the "Rest", improved security through the reduction of political instability and opportunities for both business investment and trade.

The results may not always be tangible but they are none the less real for that. And, of course, by leading the way amongst the G8 country we can further enhance our reputation in the developing world and increase our chances of benefiting in more direct ways as aid leads, hopefully, to trade over the longer term.

But aid has to be targeted, and funded projects must have definable aims and strategies. And this is something that struck me about Nick's piece: he cites a specific example of a project that aims to get girls into education in Mozambique and Ethiopia.

There is a vast reservoir of untapped talent in the developing world: woman of all ages. Because women's priorities tend to be different from men - and more focused on the family - education and empowerment of woman can lead to huge improvements in conditions for families and communities. Of course, this is difficult to achieve in cultures and circumstances where woman end up at home and their talents go unseen and un-utilised.

Breaking this pattern is difficult (but not impossible) in adulthood but easier - where appropriate funding can be achieved - in childhood. So projects tackling the under-education of girls are exactly the sorts of project that should achieve longer term results and develop more sustainable communities. We Liberal Democrats are justly proud of the Pupil Premium in the UK: we should be equally proud of our Pupil Premium in Africa.

Yes, spending is tight - but we must always remember we are citizens of the world. Insularity in times of economic strain is tempting but folly. 

But what about the cost, you say? 

Well, someone earning the median wage (£26,500) with a standard tax code is contributing just £59.45 p.a. towards DFID. (Sources: ONS and HMRC App)


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