UNITED Kingdom Independent Party (UKIP) member Mr Godfrey Bloom certainly triggered a political storm in England last month when he attacked his country’s commitment to foreign aid by complaining about money sent to “bongo bongo land”.
In an address to activists in Birmingham, Mr Bloom — described by British media as “a master of courting controversy” — said: “How we can possibly be giving a billion pounds a month when we’re in this sort of debt to bongo bongo land is completely beyond me.
“To buy Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it that goes with most of the foreign aid.” Of course, Mr Bloom was correctly upbraided by the leadership of his party and by Prime Minister David Cameron. In fact, the UKIP leader, Mr Nigel Farage, ordered Mr Bloom to issue an apology as the comments were branded as racist, given that the phrase “bongo bongo land” was used by a former British Government minister, Mr Alan Clark, to refer to Africa in the 1980s.
That, too, sparked controversy. Mr Bloom did the right thing by apologising, even though he insisted that he was standing up for “ordinary people” in England, and the UKIP leadership said he was correct to have spoken out about the amount of money Britain spends on foreign aid.
That people in England would feel this way about foreign aid is not surprising to us. After all, that country is saddled by a huge debt of approximately £1 trillion and has been making cuts in essential services, such as health and security. In fact, Mr Bloom juxtaposed those cuts as he went even further to accuse Prime Minister Cameron of treason for, as he put it, giving taxpayers’ money to charities working overseas. While Mr Bloom’s criticisms were aimed at aid going to Africa, we here in Jamaica cannot ignore the fact that we receive considerable assistance from Britain.
For instance, Britain’s contribution of £8 million to the Citizen Security and Justice Programme, in partnership with the Inter- American Development Bank, is helping to change the culture of violence in 50 communities. In addition, the Jamaica Constabulary Force receives assistance in the form of a programme aimed at improving accountability and efficiency.
That costs Britain £7.5 million. Space does not permit us to list the many other programmes being run here with British funds. But while we are grateful for the assistance, no self-respecting Government can feel comfortable knowing that it has to depend on aid to take care of its people. The key to avoiding that and the Godfrey Blooms of this world is to create the environment that will encourage investment, grow the economy and thereby reduce unemployment and crime. Anything less will leave us open to insults.