UK MPs to Poor Countries – No More Power For You.

<<Hi folks – have been away for some time, and still won’t be posting regularly for a while yet. Thanks for all the support. Will be posting as and when i can>>

Imagine that you are one of those lucky people who have been born into immense wealth and privilege. The son of a ruthless tycoon, you have been privately and very expensively educated. You have a very substantial  (200 million sterling) trust fund, meaning you need never worry about money, and you own (directly and indirectly) many properties around the world which you fly between as need or fancy takes you. Leading newspapers have criticized you for your non-domiciled status in the country you claim to represent. You are known for your “love of gambling and partying“.

Now imagine that as part of this gilded life you serve as a Tory MP for one of the wealthiest parts of London and are also on a committee of MPs asked to review crucial aid for the poorest in the world. The aid money goes to the World Bank to help fund power stations to supply energy to those without reliable electricity for their homes, hospitals and schools. You’d have to support such a noble cause wouldn’t you?

Not if you are Zac Goldsmith, former editor of The Ecologist, and a leading “Green” campaigner. If you’re Zac, you’d recommend cutting stopping that aid money until the World Bank agreed to stop funding new power stations.

As The Guardian reports, Goldsmith is one of the MPs who are recommending that the UK withdraw funding from the World Bank until it stops building those nasty power stations in poor countries where they don’t need an electricity grid, but rather investment in “ecological systems”:

Zac Goldsmith, one of the 16 MPs on the committee, said: “Britain needs to be much more robust in its dealings with the lending agencies like the World Bank, as it often funds projects that directly contradict this government’s stated goals.

“There is an unavoidable link between poverty and environmental degradation, and I hope less DfID money will be delegated to the giant lending agencies, and more will be used to repair ecological systems with a view to alleviating the worst forms of poverty.”

Goldsmith certainly doesn’t have a problem recharging his Prius, thanks to the energy supply in his own country, but feels its important to keep “exerting pressure” on poorer countries to stop building the sort of electricity network that can provide constant, reliable power. The political party Goldsmith is a member of have promised to open a new nuclear power station every 18 months, so no worries at home – he can even campaign against it, safe in the knowledge that his outrage will be ignored by his own party. There will be “no limit” on these new power stations in England’s green and pleasant land, so plug in that Prius and motor down to your 300 acre organic farm to enjoy the good life.

But not for the people in desperately poor countries who lack basic necessities like electricity. The recommendation of the committee Goldsmith sits on? No more funding for power stations, instead it must be channeled to NGOs and “grassroots” organizations:

The committee called for more money to be channelled through civil society, or grassroots groups, as opposed to governments. At present only £600,000, or 15% of its bilateral aid programme is spent this way

For their own good, of course. And what of the “ecological systems” which Goldsmith and other MPs want to see the World Bank invest in? Even the left-wing Guardian’s own environment editor describes them as “sheer madness” – which really tells you how unworkable the idea is. As the Guardian points out, the only people it will really help are the “civil society” and “grassroots” groups beloved of Goldsmith et al:

The World Bank’s flagship Biocarbon Fund project is billed as a triple win for more food production, cash for the poor and climate resilience. Really? The reality is that Africa’s first “soil carbon” project – which will involve 60,000 Kenyan farmers planting trees, manuring the land, and farming in “sustainable” ways to save around 600,000 tonnes of carbon over 20 years – also exhibits the sheer madness of the carbon markets.

The excellent US-based Institute for Agriculture Trade Policy (IATP) has now analysed the fine print and found (PDF) that the project expects to earn $2.5m from the carbon markets. But to set it up, to employ advisers and consultants and to monitor it will cost $1.05m. The 60,000 farmers will then share the remaining $1.4m. This sounds good, but works out at a lowly $23.83 each over the 20 years, or just a little more that $1 per year. Moreover, they will only earn this if they change the way they farm and record precisely what they plant, burn and put on the land. Given that the poverty line in Kenya is around $1 a day, the chance for Africans to earn a tiny amount a year – while Swedish and other advisers earn massive amounts – is likely to end in tears.

14 responses to “UK MPs to Poor Countries – No More Power For You.

  1. “Goldsmith is one of the MPs who are recommending that the UK withdraw funding from the World Bank until it stops building those nasty power stations in poor countries where they don’t need an electricity grid, but rather investment in “ecological systems”:”

    I agree with Goldsmith and the committee on a certain level. A properly joined up Government would be leaner as it isn’t pulling in different directions at once. It is also more accountable to the people as it isn’t saying several different things at once and policies are clearer. Goldsmith is actually *thinking* about how the development money is being spent and that is a step in the right direction.

    Where I disagree massively with Goldsmith and the committee is that they want the spending to go on things that match Government eco-policy when I would rather Government eco-policy changed. Investing in reliable energy in developing countries (as these are supposed to be loans not grants) works on many levels – it satisfies the development handwringers, excuses the current high levels of tax, allows the Statists to expand their horizons and in the long run will reduce immigration from those developing countries *and* help create the private sector and consumer societies abroad that British businesses can have a crack at. From an environmental perspective a centralised and dependable power station however fueled is surely better than the population stripping the land of trees so they can cook and keep warm.

  2. Absolutely wonderful to have you back! Good thing I didn’t take you off the RSS reader.


    Welcome back.

  4. Pingback: 5 Star Blogging « Autonomous Mind

  5. Martin Brumby

    A brilliant and important post.

    Good to see you back.

  6. Barry, any resemblance between your post and reality is purely unintentional, I’m sure. Nice spoof of far-left idiocy!

  7. You’re back – excellent! For a while I was afraid the library had brought in an exorcist. 🙂

  8. Good to see you back – and thanks to Bishop Hill for alerting me to your return.

  9. Great to see you are posting again. Keep up the good work as and when you can!

  10. Even the utterly rich MUST have something which is ‘all their own doing’. They know that when Judgement Day dawns they’ll be asked to account for the talents they were given. Do not begrudge the kid his moment in the sun no matter how pathetic the rays upon his face and the result of his undertakings. To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under.. well, under whatever you think might be up ‘there’. (SarcOff)

    Gald you’re back. If only for a bit.

  11. Good to see you back … I had only just discovered this blog a few weeks before it went quiet … it quickly became one of my favourites.

  12. Re. the Biocarbon Fund project – “expected” to earn $2.5m from the carbon markets. But cost $1.05m.+. One thing I know about start-up ventures, the initail cost estimates are usually woefully low (especially when you have managers and consultants to feed) and the earnings are optimistically high. Those poor Kenyan farmers will be lucky to get cents.

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