Foreign aid…….further scandalous revelations about wasted money

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Shopping mall in Nigeria

 

Britain has poured hundreds of millions of pounds from its poverty relief fund into Pakistan’s version of Amazon, Chinese restaurant chains, online gambling websites, five-star hotels and luxury shopping malls, The Times can reveal.

CDC Group, the government’s private equity division, claims that it “makes a lasting difference to people’s lives in some of the world’s poorest places” by investing in local businesses that then create jobs.

Analysis of hundreds of its investments, however, reveal that foreign aid money has gone to companies catering for the comfortable middle classes including dozens in large, fast-growing economies such as China and India.

The revelations will put pressure on Priti Patel, the international development secretary, to justify plans to quadruple the amount of aid money flowing through CDC from £1.5 billion to £6 billion — a move criticised by an MP last month as “an ideological attempt to privatise our aid”.

Last night Theresa May urged Ms Patel to clamp down on how aid is spent after The Times revealed that the Department for International Development (Dfid) was spending £1 billion a year on consultants and had handed tens of thousands of pounds to hire TV stars. Ms Patel is to review all Dfid aid contracts and will force contractors to publish salary figures, but she remains steadfast in her support for CDC.

Projects that have received investments from CDC or CDC-backed funds since 2012 have included:

•Several large shopping malls in Nigeria, often with accompanying gated communities, and a chain of electronics stores selling iPhones and flat-screen televisions in Egypt.

•Daraz, the Pakistani version of Amazon, and an Indian online fashion retailer called Jabong. They have received £32 million between them in direct funding from CDC.

•Restaurant chains in Vietnam, India and Peru and a Chinese budget hotel franchise called 7 Days.

•An African e-commerce company which has also been backed by Goldman Sachs, Axa Insurance and other multinationals and an online gaming platform in Singapore which has been valued at $2.5 billion.

•Outdoor advertising businesses in Ghana and China and a company that supplies Imax cinema equipment in the Far East.

CDC, formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation, changed its mission statement in 2012. After earlier criticism it pledged to focus on riskier development projects that would otherwise struggle to raise funding and to only invest in South Asia and Africa. However, previous commitments to private equity funds mean that money is still being used to fund businesses in wealthy countries including China and several in eastern Europe.

A spokesman said that its direct investments in online retailers including Daraz, Jabong and the Africa Internet Group were justified because of the jobs that they supported. CDC acknowledged that it could sell its interest in private equity funds to which it had committed itself before 2012 but which were making fresh investments in businesses that it would not otherwise choose to invest in.

However, Diana Noble, the outgoing chief executive, said she had concluded that this would represent poor value to the taxpayer. Another investment, Feronia Inc, which runs palm oil plantations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and has received £26 million of British aid money, has been criticised by a coalition of charities over claims that it is illegally occupying land and pays workers less than $2 a day.

CDC also retains longstanding investments in a Brazilian fitness chain, a Mexican tourist resort, a cable TV provider in Kyrgyzstan and a group of private boarding schools in Kenya, analysis of its holdings shows.

A report by the National Audit Office in November found that CDC was struggling to show that its work made a lasting impact on people’s lives in poor countries. Tim Jones, policy officer at Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: “These cases show that money which should be used for poverty reduction is being directed at private companies benefiting wealthy consumers. In many cases the use of private equity funds means that CDC has no control over where the money ends up. Aid money should be supporting public services and infrastructure, not private profit.”

CDC has long faced criticism over the extent to which its investments have an impact on alleviating poverty rather than simply generating good returns. Once it has committed to a private equity fund it cannot control the fund’s individual investments and the only alternative is to sell its interest.

Although pay has been reduced in recent years, staff continue to receive high salaries. Ms Noble received more than £300,000 last year. The group’s 145 staff received an average of about £90,000 last year in basic pay, with a further long-term bonus worth an average of more than £19,000. CDC said that the average salary had since fallen to £82,000.

Since the start of 2014 investment funds which CDC has backed with $338.4 million have made investments in more than a dozen big construction schemes. These include two residential units in Nairobi, Kenya — Westpoint Heights and Westlands Place — which were backed by a fund with $20 million of CDC money in 2014. A brochure for Westpoint Heights, which uses the slogan “only the best will do”, boasts that it will be a gated community of two-bedroom apartments with “state of the art fittings”, while Westlands Place describes itself as “Nairobi’s premier city-living concept” with a “rooftop party terrace”, gym, 24-hour reception and a private water supply.

CDC said that “construction employs a large number of people, typically with low skills, and is an excellent way to improve job quality”.

A Dfid spokesman said: “We have radically transformed CDC over the last five years to ensure their investments are targeted where they are needed most and have greatest impact for the world’s poorest.” The department said that it would continue to hold CDC to account.

Article original published in The Times (9.12.2016)

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Greg Lake…….another great musician dies

“I Believe in Father Christmas” is a song by English musician Greg Lake with lyrics by Peter Sinfield. Although it is often categorised as a Christmas song, this was not Lake’s intention. Lake claims to have written the song in protest at the commercialisation of Christmas. Sinfield, however, claims that the words are about a loss of innocence and childhood belief.Released in 1975, the song reached number two on the UK Singles Chart.

The song is often misinterpreted as an anti-religious song and, because of this, Lake was surprised at its success. As he stated in a Mojo magazine interview: “I find it appalling when people say it’s politically incorrect to talk about Christmas, you’ve got to talk about ‘The Holiday Season’. Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness, acceptance. And I do believe in Father Christmas.”

The instrumental riff between verses comes from the “Troika” portion of Sergei Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite written for a 1934 Soviet film, Lieutenant Kijé, added at Keith Emerson’s suggestion.

Lake’s manager announced that he had died on Wednesday the 7 December 2016, and so 2016 claims another extremely fine musician. Lake was instrumental in the formation of the group King Crimson but later became know as one part of ELP (Emerson, Lake and Palmer), and for anyone who wants to hear the trio in their prime give a listen to “Fanfare for the Common Man” below, recorded at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal in 1977.

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Overseas Aid……..and the gravy train continues unabated despite political promises

Aid spending on consultants has doubled to £1billion in just four years including huge bills to hire broadcasters from the BBC and Channel 4, it emerged last night. The vast spending also included £1million for Nigeria, which was shared with US bank JP Morgan and a law firm to advise the African nation on how to spend its vast oil wealth. Aid to Nigeria has been particularly controversial as the oil-rich country has its own space programme. Minister Priti Patel has said privately she will not ‘tolerate the profiteering’

In 2014 the Department for International Development (DfiD) paid £26,000 to hire Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Muthy and £14,000 to hire BBC broadcaster Zainab Badawi to host sessions at a two-day aid conference in Mexico,  Mr Guru-Muthy promised to give his fee to an international development charity – minus the tax he paid – claiming had no idea it was funded by the Government but Ms Badawi declined to comment, The Times said.

Analysis of 70,000 financial transactions revealed consultancy spending has increased sharply since 2012. Almost half the spending goes to just ten British companies. The newspaper also reported extraordinary lavish spending on individual contracts.

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2015: Britain’s overall foreign aid budget is now so swollen it accounts for £1 in every £7 given by rich countries. A global study shows the 28 leading industrialised nations handed out £86billion between them last year

In another case two consultants were separately paid £12,000 to produce a single six page ‘how to’ note on disaster resilience. Another two were paid £15,100 to write a 30-page discussion paper.

Miss Patel is thought to have said privately she will not ‘tolerate the profiteering by those who have created an industry out of the suffering of the world’s poorest.’
The revelations will increase controversy over Britain’s ballooning international aid budget, which now tops a staggering £12billion.

It is due to increase every year as long as the economy grows, after David Cameron passed a law forcing the government to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid every year.
Backbench Tory MPs critical of the law say it prioritises how much is spent over choosing good projects or avoiding waste and corruption.

Earlier this year it emerged the UK could be sued after building a useless £285 million runway on the remote island of St Helena. Strong cross winds make it impossible for planes to land – but local investors have already spent a fortune preparing for new tourists and want to claim their money back.

On taking the job, Miss Patel – who had previously called for the department to be scrapped, admitted aid money was being wasted and stolen. And she promised to pour hundreds of millions into immigration hotspots to try and deter mass migration to the UK and Europe.

A DfID spokesman said: ‘DfID is one of the most transparent development agencies in the world and we expect the sector to adhere to the highest standards to achieve the best results for the world’s poorest and value for money for the British taxpayer. UK Aid has a life-changing impact on the ground, but DfID can and will do more. ‘The department is examining how we can increase scrutiny of contractor spending because if we want to defeat poverty for good, we need to improve value and impact across the aid system.’

Comment: Dont scrutinise the contracts, just stop them and spend the money on the NHS, Cancer research, Heart research, Alzheimers research as well as paying the low paid more than subsistence wages.

Source: The Times/Daily Mail

 

Posted in 21st century, Abuse of power, Charities, Corruption, Overseas aid, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Academics offered counselling to cope with stress caused by Brexit vote….”poor little petals”

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University academics have been offered counselling to deal with the “stress and anxiety” caused by the Brexit vote. Staff are being urged to attend “wellbeing workshops” and follow guidance to help them cope with feelings of “uncertainty, grief and anger” post-Brexit.

At Nottingham University, half-day “wellbeing workshops” will focus on “enhancing skills for resilience in response to the Brexit decision”. In the sessions academics look at common responses to uncertainty, such as stress and anxiety, and learn techniques to help them feel more in control, including mindfulness.

The staff counselling and psychological support service at Leeds University has compiled a guide to help staff “cope with the change and uncertainty arising from the Brexit vote”. It tells staff they could experience some or all of the stages commonly associated with grief, such as shock, denial, depression and anger.

The guide warns dons against “news addiction”, advising them to manage their exposure to the news, not to have it on all the time and not to check news in the middle of the night: “If you receive a lot of news shocks, your body is likely to experience fear.”

Loss of sleep is pinpointed as one likely effect: “All of this is likely to make us feel more tired than normal . . . Try to eat well, exercise and take rest. Even if you are keen to lobby and campaign, you still need the energy to do so.”

The result of the EU referendum has made abundantly clear the gulf that exists between the intellectuals and the masses; between those with PhDs and those with GNVQs; between those who spend their days in front of a computer and those whose work prevents them from tweeting their every thought.

A poll conducted in the run up to the referendum suggested 90 per cent of academics intended to vote Remain. We now know that the academics who took to social media to declare ‘I don’t know anyone who is voting Leave’ were not exaggerating. In the days since the referendum result was announced, this unfamiliarity with the strange Other – that is, the 52 per cent of the electorate who voted Leave – has brought many academics’ barely concealed contempt for the masses out into the open. According to one professor, Leave supporters are irrational, xenophobic, ignorant Little Englanders.

Not only have many academics become remote from the views of ordinary people, universities are rapidly becoming politically homogenous institutions. Another poll, this time carried out just before the last General Election, showed 46 per cent of British academics intended to vote for Labour and 22 per cent for the Green Party. Higher education now needs to stop and consider the consequences this closed-mindedness might have for scholarship and academic freedom.

No wonder these institutions are producing little leftie “snowflakes” who are incapable of dealing with anything that opposes or contradicts their views. They seek solace in “safe spaces” “trigger warnings” “micro aggressions” and god forbid that anyone speaks against their ideas because if they do they will get “no platformed.”

Sources: The Times/Spiked/ Personal comment

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Heron on the river………..

Decided to get a little exercise as it was a lovely afternoon and the temperature had risen from 2c yesterday to 14c today, in fact it was more like a balmy spring day than nearly mid December.

I usually walk from Wellhouse to Slaithwaite and back, but today did it in the reverse order. This was particularly advantageous for taking photographs as the sun was at my back on the first leg of the walk.

Some of the trees still have their leaves and there are remarkable colours of brown, green and yellow, presumably because we have had a fairly mild winter so far (with the exception of one snowstorm).

On my journey today I spotted a rather large Heron which appeared to be fishing in the river that runs parallel with the Huddersfield Canal. It stood perfectly still for several minutes before taking off for a short flight to a position up the river. I managed to get a few photographs of the bird stood by the side of the river and then shortly after it took flight.

It is the biggest Heron I have ever seen and liked majestic in flight. How lucky we are to have all this wildlife on our doorsteps and it is one of the reasons I come on this walk on a very regular basis. Below are some of the photographs I took this afternoon.

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Photographs taken with Nikon D5200 + 18-250 Sigma lens.

 

Photographs (c) Kindadukish 2016

Posted in Birds, blue sky, Canal, Nikon, Photography, Uncategorized, West Yorkshire, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

6th December 2016 – Locoyard Advent Calendar

Loco Yard

Todays special picture comes with thanks to Terry Gregory. Click on the picture to reveal today’s Advent picture!

Got a picture that you’d like to submit for the Advent Calendar? Email it to locomotiveyard@gmail.com

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Student “Snowflakes” need protecting!

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University students upset by lectures covering “sensitive topics” could be given deadline extensions, exam resits or exemptions from set work to ensure they are not disadvantaged.

Guidance drawn up by Newcastle University warns that students could be so distressed by material dealing with such issues as rape, violence, racism and misogyny that it could affect their academic performance.

If this happened, the case could be referred to a committee of tutors with the power to make “adjustments” to how these students were examined, such as excusing them from completing some of the assessed work.

Academics across the country are already issuing “trigger warnings” to give students advance notice of “sensitive material”, including images in video games, war photography and topless models, as well as discussions of underage sex, homelessness and religion.

While some professors defend their use, others have criticised them for putting pressure on tutors to self-censor what they teach. At Newcastle, English literature students requested trigger warnings for lectures covering “rape, suicide, graphic violence or racism”.

Dennis Hayes, professor of education at Derby University and the director of the campaign group Academics for Academic Freedom, described the guidance as “bureaucratic mollycoddling”.

A Newcastle University spokesman said that the guidance, introduced last year, had not led to any students applying to the committee of tutors in relation to sensitive material.

Comment

I do wonder what the world is coming to these days when the poor little “snowflakes” attending our universities in the UK are unable to deal with the realities of life. What do they think they are at university for, to sit in a little protective bubble with the real world that they say they cannot cope with, kept at bay? What is even worse is that there are universities going along with this bullshit in case any of the little darlings get upset. How about a course to “understand the reality of the world” which would include the following:-

Read “The Diary of Ann Frank”

Read Franz Kafkas “The Trial”

Read John Steinbecks “The Grapes of Wrath”

Read Anthong Beevers “Stalingrad”

Read “kl” by Nikolaus Wachsmann

Read The Holocaust by Martin Gilbert

Visit Auschwitz or the Ninth Fort or the Genocide Museum (Vilnius)

When they have done all these things they may perhaps understand that their sanitised little lives are really quite nice and that the chance of being dragged out of bed in the night and shipped off to a concentration camp is somewhat remote, or stood up against a wall and shot for having the temerity to criticise some aspect of the regime of the country.

I do wonder also how they will cope when they enter the world of work and some boss just says “get on with it” you are an adult and expected to cope……….I think it is what is called resilience!

Source: Sunday Times and personal comment

Posted in appalling behavior, Auschwitz, Concentration camp, Criticism, Culture, Higher Education, Students, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments