The United Kingdom should divert one third of its £8bn foreign aid to the military and scrap the department of international development, a think-tank has suggested.
In a book published on Monday, Civitas dismiss the coalition’s pledge to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid “one of the most expensive marketing campaigns in history” as it is simply designed to ‘detoxify’ the Tory brand while not delivering substantial help to the world's poor.
Author Jonathan Foreman says the UK's aid programme is "exorbitant and self-indulgent" and criticises David Cameron for taking advantage of the British people's generosity.
“To the extent that an increase in foreign development aid serves this public relations purpose, its effectiveness or lack thereof at delivering a better life and future for various poor peoples around the world is presumably beside the point," he says.
“It means that a set of policies trumpeted as manifesting generosity is in fact a cynical, ruthless and morally reprehensible con-job pushed by marketing gurus for whom their real-world effects in the underdeveloped world are largely irrelevant.”
Foreman suggests the 0.7% target be abolished and up to one third of the foreign aid budget be diverted to the Ministry of Defence, as the armed forces capacity to deliver certain key kinds of emergency aid more quickly and more effectively than any NGO or international aid agency.
The book also recommends DfID, created by Labour in 1997, should be reabsorbed into the Foreign Office.
According to Foreman, the privileged background of Cameron and his cabinet mean they care more about foreigners than it does about the UK’s poor.
“Such people are perhaps more likely to engage with poor Africans and South Asians on their holidays than they are to encounter needy or vulnerable people in their own country,” he says.
“And it is hard to escape the impression that it is for this reason (rather than pure snobbery) that the PM and his circle apparently find it harder to empathise with a ‘chav’ in a wheelchair – even if he lost his legs in Afghanistan – than they do with disadvantaged people in the third world.”
A spokesperson for DfID said sticking to the 0.7% pledge was "both the right thing and the smart thing to do" creating a safer, more prosperous world.
"Fighting global poverty means tackling the root causes of problems such as disease and terrorism which matter to us here in Britain," the spokesperson said.
"The coalition government has radically reformed our development spend by focussing resources on a smaller number of countries and agencies, helping economies to stand on their own two feet and setting up an independent watchdog to scrutinise spending and root out waste."