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11th September 2013: The world's gone mad and I'm the only one who knows
13th August 2013: Black is white. Fact. End of.
11th August 2013: Electric cars, not as green as they're painted?
18th June 2013: Wrinklies unite, you have nothing to lose but your walking frames!
17th May 2013: Some actual FACTS about climate change (for a change) from actual scientists ...
10th May 2013: An article about that poison gas, carbon dioxide, and other scientific facts (not) ...
10th May 2013: We need to see past the sex and look at the crimes: is justice being served?
8th May 2013: So, who would you trust to treat your haemorrhoids, Theresa May?
8th May 2013: Why should citizens in the 21st Century fear the law so much?
30th April 2013: What the GOS says today, the rest of the world realises tomorrow ...
30th April 2013: You couldn't make it up, could you? Luckily you don't need to ...
29th April 2013: a vote for NONE OF THE ABOVE, because THE ABOVE are crap ...
28th April 2013: what goes around, comes around?
19th April 2013: everyone's a victim these days ...
10th April 2013: Thatcher is dead; long live Thatcher!
8th April 2013: Poor people are such a nuisance. Just give them loads of money and they'll go away ...
26th March 2013: Censorship is alive and well and coming for you ...
25th March 2013: Just do your job properly, is that too much to ask?
25th March 2013: So, what do you think caused your heterosexuality?
20th March 2013: Feminists - puritans, hypocrites or just plain stupid?
18th March 2013: How Nazi Germany paved the way for modern governance?
13th March 2013: Time we all grew up and lived in the real world ...
12th March 2013: Hindenburg crash mystery solved? - don't you believe it!
6th March 2013: Is this the real GOS?
5th March 2013: All that's wrong with taxes
25th February 2013: The self-seeking MP who is trying to bring Britain down ...
24th February 2013: Why can't newspapers just tell the truth?
22nd February 2013: Trial by jury - a radical proposal
13th February 2013: A little verse for two very old people ...
6th February 2013: It's not us after all, it's worms
6th February 2013: Now here's a powerful argument FOR gay marriage ...
4th February 2013: There's no such thing as equality because we're not all the same ...
28th January 2013: Global Warming isn't over - IT'S HIDING!
25th January 2013: Global Warmers: mad, bad and dangerous to know ...
25th January 2013: Bullying ego-trippers, not animal lovers ...
19th January 2013: We STILL haven't got our heads straight about gays ...
16th January 2013: Bullying ego-trippers, not animal lovers ...
11th January 2013: What it's like being English ...
7th January 2013: Bleat, bleat, if it saves the life of just one child ...
7th January 2013: How best to put it? 'Up yours, Argentina'?
7th January 2013: Chucking even more of other people's money around ...
6th January 2013: Chucking other people's money around ...
30th December 2012: The BBC is just crap, basically ...
30th December 2012: We mourn the passing of a genuine Grumpy Old Sod ...
30th December 2012: How an official body sets out to ruin Christmas ...
16th December 2012: Why should we pardon Alan Turing when he did nothing wrong?
15th December 2012: When will social workers face up to their REAL responsibility?
15th December 2012: Unfair trading by a firm in Bognor Regis ...
14th December 2012: Now the company that sells your data is pretending to act as watchdog ...
7th December 2012: There's a war between cars and bikes, apparently, and  most of us never noticed!
26th November 2012: The bottom line - social workers are just plain stupid ...
20th November 2012: So, David Eyke was right all along, then?
15th November 2012: MPs don't mind dishing it out, but when it's them in the firing line ...
14th November 2012: The BBC has a policy, it seems, about which truths it wants to tell ...
12th November 2012: Big Brother, coming to a school near you ...
9th November 2012: Yet another celebrity who thinks, like Jimmy Saville, that he can behave just as he likes because he's famous ...
5th November 2012: Whose roads are they, anyway? After all, we paid for them ...
7th May 2012: How politicians could end droughts at a stroke if they chose ...
6th May 2012: The BBC, still determined to keep us in a fog of ignorance ...
2nd May 2012: A sense of proportion lacking?
24th April 2012: Told you so, told you so, told you so ...
15th April 2012: Aah, sweet ickle polar bears in danger, aah ...
15th April 2012: An open letter to Anglian Water ...
30th March 2012: Now they want to cure us if we don't believe their lies ...
28th February 2012: Just how useful is a degree? Not very.
27th February 2012: ... so many ways to die ...
15th February 2012: DO go to Jamaica because you definitely WON'T get murdered with a machete. Ms Fox says so ...
31st January 2012: We don't make anything any more
27th January 2012: There's always a word for it, they say, and if there isn't we'll invent one
26th January 2012: Literary criticism on GOS? How posh!
12th December 2011: Plain speaking by a scientist about the global warming fraud
9th December 2011: Who trusts scientists? Apart from the BBC, of course?
7th December 2011: All in all, not a good week for British justice ...
9th November 2011: Well what d'you know, the law really IS a bit of an ass ...

 

 
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This week a newspaper poll revealed that over 70% of people in Britain think we should stop giving aid to Africa. We would hazard a guess that this doesn't reflect meanness or selfishness on the part of British people, but the knowledge that little if any of the aid we send can be relied upon to reach the people who need it most, and that most of it ends up in the pockets of chancers and corrupt politicians or officials.
 
We at GOS have long believed that we should not be supporting this doomed continent, but exploiting it. History bears us out. Never before have advanced nations said to third world countries "We know that you're in a real mess, that your people are starving, that you appear incapable of supporting any kind of beneficial government, that you are liable at the drop of a hat to pick up a weapon and massacre your neighbours, that you are ruled by corrupt violent and greedy men - so here's a shedload of money!"
 
What we've done in the past is exploit them. We've said instead, "We're coming to take away your mineral and agricultural wealth, and if you help us do it we'll give you a job". And it's worked. We exploited India - and in a few short decades it has progressed to being a vibrant nuclear power. We exploited the Chinese (not always without their significant opposition) and now they're the second most powerful nation in the world. We exploited the oil-producing countries of the Middle East and now they're exploiting us back by owning our businesses and holding us to ransom with oil prices.
 
It's harsh, but it's realistic. Out of exploitation comes, eventually and not without some unpleasantness on the way, financial and political independence. Out of subservience comes the desire for self-determination and education. Out of wage-slavery comes affluence. That's the way the world has worked, and that's the way it could continue to work if we'd only let it.
 
So why do we believe that we can maintain Africa as a kind of bucolic historical theme-park? Why are we so opposed to the notion that Africa should be helped to exploit its mineral and coal reserves, to build factories where people can get jobs, to generate electricity to power those factories that will also pump clean water and power refrigerators, to make profits that can be taxed to provide health care and schools? Why do we prevent them from spraying their houses with DDT which would free them from things like malaria and sleeping-sickness at the expense of a few species of small animals and insects?
 
Why do we continue to back the absurd and misplaced moralising of a bunch of luvvies and would-be celebrities who can make themselves feel and look good once a year by taking over BBC television with lame comedy acts and stupid stunts?
 
As Christopher Hart wrote this week ...
 
We are accustomed to bizarre outbursts and posturings from multimillionaire celebrities, especially when they spot a chance to portray themselves as concerned philanthropists with almost painfully big hearts. Their favourite method is to drop in for a few hours at some televised charity event - Comic Relief, Live8 and Live Earth.
 
Perhaps the best-known, and certainly the loudest among them, is U2's Bono. His efforts have won him an honorary British knighthood, no fewer than three Nobel Prize nominations and the adulation of Tony Blair. Yet one of Bono's most significant outbursts - rude, heckling and laden with expletives - took place away from the world's TV cameras at a small conference it Tanzania recently.
 
Bono had been enraged by a Ugandan writer called Andrew Mwenda, who was presenting a powerful case that international aid, far from helping lift Africa out of poverty, might in fact be the very cause of its troubles. Even the suggestion that this might be the case sent 'Saint' Bono into a foul-mouthed rant, accusing Mwenda of being a comedian rather than a serious contributor to political debate. For his own sake, then, one can only hope that the pop star never comes face to face with the author of an incendiary new book. Called "Dead Aid: why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa", its very title is a bitter mockery of that great institution and celebrity bandwagon, Live Aid.
 
But what it contains - particularly at a time when people are generously giving time, money and enthusiasm to this week's Comic Relief fundraising events - is even more provocative. It argues that for 50 years the West has been giving aid to Africa - and in so doing has ruined the continent it professes to help. The author of Dead Aid is no lightweight courting controversy for its own sake. She is a highly qualified economist. More importantly, she is herself African - and what she has to say is as unsettling as it is important.
 
Dambisa Moyo was born in Zambia, where her family still live. She has a doctorate in economics from Oxford, a masters from Harvard, and for several years worked for the World Bank in Washington DC. She is now head of research and strategy for sub-Saharan Africa at a leading investment bank. But here, you feel, is one banker who is still worth listening to, not least as she has witnessed the way her home country has become blighted by poverty. At independence in 1964, Zambia was a fresh, optimistic young nation, eager to embrace the future. Its GDP was around a quarter of the UK's.
 
Today it is one-26th, and the country is mired in corruption, poverty and disease. So what went wrong?
 
One by one, Moyo examines the usual lame excuses for African backwardness, and dispatches them with ruthless efficiency. Africa has a harsh, intractable climate, with huge natural barriers such as jungle and desert? Well, so does Brazil, or Australia.
 
Many African countries are landlocked, always an obstacle to economic growth? That hasn't done Switzerland or Austria much harm.
 
African countries are too ethnically and tribally diverse? So is India, and its economy is booming.
 
Africa lacks democracy? So do China, Thailand and Indonesia, all Asian tiger economies.
 
As for any lingering mutterings about Africans simply not being up to it, or inherently lazy, she doesn't even consider them. She herself is eloquent proof of the idiocy of such Victorian-era racism. No, the problem can be summed up in one short word - aid. Aid isn't Africa's cure, she believes. It's the disease.
 
Let's be clear, though, Moyo is scrupulously fair about distinguishing between three different types of aid. There is emergency relief for famine, which many of us support through donations or charitable fundraisers, which is not only well-meaning but absolutely necessary at times of international crisis.
 
Then there is the everyday work of the charities themselves, about which she appears neutral, although she quotes one cutting comment from a senior economist: 'They know it's c**p, but it sells the T-shirts.' This year, it is Stella McCartney's Comic Relief T-shirts - featuring images of The Beatles and of Morecambe and Wise - that have become the must-have accessory of those who like to wear their conscience on their sleeve.
 
Despite the cynics, it is worth remembering that since its creation in the mid-Eighties, Comic Relief has generated 600 million - roughly two-thirds of which has gone to fund charities working on the ground in Africa (the other third goes towards charities in the UK). That is an awesome achievement that has made a genuine difference towards alleviating suffering on a local scale in some of the most deprived nations on Earth. No one should belittle that work.
 
But charities are 'small beer' compared to what Moyo perceives to be Africa's real problem: the billions of pounds' worth of aid poured into the continent by Western governments. Consider the figures. In the past 50 years, the West has pumped around 35 trillion into Africa. But far from improving the lives of ordinary Africans, the result of state-administered charity on such a colossal scale has, argues Moyo, been 'an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster'.
 
The effects are easy to see, yet always ignored. Over the past 30 years, the economies of the most aid-dependent countries have shrunk by 0.2 per cent per annum. Yes, in the UK we have been in recession for six months or so now, but countries like Malawi and Burkina Faso have been in recession for three decades. How is this disaster related to thoughtless Western aid?
 
Directly.
 
Moyo cites a brilliant example of how the whole concept is flawed. Imagine there's an African mosquito-net maker who manufactures 500 nets a week. He employs ten people, and this being Africa, each of those employees supports as many as 15 relatives on his modest but steady salary. Some 150 people therefore depend on this thriving little cottage industry, producing a much-needed, low-cost commodity for local people.
 
Then, Moyo writes: 'Enter vociferous Hollywood movie star who rallies the masses and goads Western governments to collect and send 100,000 mosquito nets to the afflicted region, at a cost of a million dollars. The nets arrive and a "good" deed is done.'
 
The result? The local business promptly goes bust. Why buy one when they're handing them out for free? Ten more people are unemployed, and 150 people are without means of support.
 
Like all such aid hand-outs, it's an idiotically short-sighted way to treat a complex problem. And that's not all. In a year or so, those nets will have sustained wear and tear, and will need either mending or replacing. But the local net-maker is no longer around.
 
So now those previously independent and self-sufficient Africans have to go begging the West for more aid. Intervention has actually destroyed a small part of Africa's economy, as well as its spirit of enterprise. Thus aid reduces its recipients to beggary in two easy moves. Yet despite this ongoing disaster, we still have the celebrity harangues, the self-applauding rock concerts, 'making poverty history' from the comfort of your private jet.
 
At some point in the Eighties, as Dambisa Moyo observes, 'Public discourse became a public disco', reaching its eventual nadir, perhaps, with Madonna addressing her audience at Live Earth as 'motherf*****s' and declaring 'If you wanna save the planet, jump up and down!'
 
Moyo is blisteringly critical about the 'Western, liberal, guilt-tripped morality' that lies behind these jamborees, about the tax-avoiding Bono lecturing us all on poverty and advising world leaders at summits, and Blair's craven admiration for him. Ordinary Africans do not, on the whole, have much admiration for Western pop culture at its noisiest and most foul-mouthed.
 
So what do they make of the bizarre spectacle of some ill-qualified Western pop star moralising with such supreme arrogance on 'what Africa really needs'? Africans themselves have ideas about what they really need, if only someone would listen. But as one such African comments: 'My voice can't compete with an electric guitar.'
 
Another effect of aid, well known in the West and yet consistently and shamefully ignored, is that it props up the most thuggish and kleptomaniac of Africa's leaders. That parade of grotesques who have filled our TV screens almost since independence, it seems - Idi Amin in Uganda, Mobutu in Zaire, Mengistu in Ethiopia, the 'Emperor' Bokassa in the Central African Republic - were always the greatest beneficiaries. Bokassa spent a third of his country's annual income on his own preposterous 'coronation'. The genocidal Mengistu benefited hugely, it is said, from the proceeds of Live Aid.
 
Today we have Mr Robert Mugabe's wife Grace, 40 years his junior, going on 75,000-a-time shopping trips to Europe or the Far East, while her people starve, inflation runs at 230 million per cent, and Zimbabwe's Central Bank issues $100 trillion banknotes.
 
Such tales echo Mobutu's reign of terror in Zaire. He once asked the West for a reduction of his country's colossal debt. The West, feeling guilty, promptly granted it. Mobutu's response? He hired Concorde to fly his daughter to her wedding on the Ivory Coast. In all, Mobutu may have looted 3.5billion from his country's coffers. Nigeria's President Sani Abacha stole about the same.
 
Even the World Bank itself reckons that 85 per cent of aid never gets to where it's meant to. 'When the World Bank thinks its financing an electric power station,' says one jaundiced commentator whom Moyo quotes, 'it's really financing a brothel.'
 
So the aid industry causes poverty, corruption and war. Yet it continues. Why? Could aid just be something the West indulge in to buy itself an easy conscience - regardless of what effect it has on Africa? Whatever the case, we should turn the taps off immediately, says Moyo. Would this mean the end to the building of new roads, schools, hospitals? No. They're mainly built by investment, not aid.
 
Would it be the end to many a kleptomaniac despot? Most certainly. But would millions would die of hunger within weeks? Of course not. The aid we send doesn't reach them anyway. Life for them would in the short term be no different, but in the longer term immeasurably better.
 
What makes Dead Aid so powerful is that it's a double-barrelled shotgun of a book. With the first barrel, Moyo demolishes all the most cherished myths about aid being a good thing.
 
But with the second, crucially, she goes on to explain what the West could be doing instead. We all share the well-meaning belief that 'the rich should help the poor, and the form of this help should be aid'. The first part of this is plain morality. But the second part, as she so forcefully demonstrates, is false - lethally false. We shouldn't be giving aid to Africa. That's not what Africa wants. We should be trading with it, and idle chatter of 'economic imperialism' be damned. She has no time for such Left-liberal pieties. Of course we should be using Africa's vast pool of cheap labour to make our clothes, assemble our cars, grow our foodstuffs. In fact, one country already is - it's called China.
 
China is building roads in Ethiopia, pipelines in Sudan, railways in Nigeria. It's buying iron ore and platinum from South Africa, timber from Gabon and Cameroon, oil from Angola and Equatorial Guinea. China is pouring vast sums of capital investment into the continent, enriching both itself and Africa in the process.
 
Dambisa Moyo is not much bothered by Western concerns that China does nothing to further democracy in Africa. An villager with six children doesn't lose sleep over not having the vote, she loses sleep over what she will feed her children tomorrow.
 
The greatest example for Africa today, she believes, could be the Grameen Bank, which means, 'The Bank Of The Village', in Bangladesh. Moyo hopes that, in time, the nations of Africa can develop such a bank for themselves. For it is an extraordinary and heart-warming success story.
 
It was devised by Muhammad Yunus, who quite rightly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts. Yunus's inspiration was to ask: 'Where lies the wealth of the typical Bangladeshi village?' A village may not have money, goods or assets. Yet it is a wonderfully tight-knit, loyal little community, where nobody locks their doors at night, nobody steals, everyone knows each other. This is a tremendous kind of wealth - but how to translate it into money for these impoverished, decent, hard-working people?
 
Yunus realised you could lend money to such a community and be sure of getting it back if you worked according to a plan - a plan with the simplicity of genius. You lend not to an individual but to a group, but only one member at a time. So you might lend one woman 20 (and an amazing 97 per cent of the Grameen Bank's customers are women). That's enough for her to buy a new sewing machine, and so start a thriving little tailoring business.
 
A year later, she repays the amount, with interest. At which point, the original 20 is passed on to the next person in the group. But if she doesn't repay the loan - and here Yunus saw how to turn the village's 'social capital', its trustworthiness and deep-rooted sense of community, into economic value - then the next person in the group, quite possibly her next-door neighbour, her sister or cousin, doesn't get it either.
 
The result? This humbly named Bank Of The Village now has 2.3 million customers, and a portfolio worth a colossal 170 million - in one of the poorest countries on Earth. There is something deeply moving about it, especially when you learn that the reliability of the Grameen Bank's customers has proved to be virtually 100 per cent.
 
No greater contrast between our own inept but limitlessly greedy banks and Bangladesh's Bank Of The Village could be imagined. The failed fat-cat cityboy still awards himself a 500,000 bonus for his own incompetence, while these trustworthy women care for every single cent of their precious 20 loan.
 
Moyo concludes her book with a wise old African proverb. 'The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.'

 

 
The GOS says: There you are, then. I knew there was a reason I won't be watching on Friday night, and it has nothing to do with the second-rate acts.
 

 
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