The UK is currently experiencing some pretty bad weather. We have just had the wettest January on record and February seems no better. Consequently there is a lot of flooding, including in my own city of Worcester.
As usually happens in these times of relative hardship loud cries go up from the public complaining about the government's foreign aid budget. Why are we giving away all our hard earned money to foreigners when our own people are suffering? After all, these corrupt foreigners only spend it on weapons and space programs! We need to claw back that money and let charity begin at home!
There is currently a swell of public opinion in the UK that shares such sentiments.
I do NOT like it.
The UK is due to reach the giddy heights of generosity this year of giving away 0.7% of our GNP in overseas aid. It is a lot of money but as a percentage of the whole it is tiny. We spend almost all of our tax money on ourselves. And this is as it should be. Governments have a duty first to their own citizens. Maybe charity does begin at home, but even if it does it already has!
What frustrates me is that there are all sorts of budgets from which money could be diverted to help people whose houses and businesses are flooded. Why is it that the immediate reaction is always to stop the tiny bit that we give to help others?
I think that it is a good thing for a nation to seek to help others that are less well off. I think it is a virtuous thing. I think that it is a deeply human thing. That is the kind of nation I think Britain, or any nation, should aspire to be. To divert foreign aid money to flood victims instead of diverting money already allocated for UK spending would, I think, be a wrong move. Yes, times are hard and money is tight but when we only see our own problems and cannot see those of others we are in danger of gaining the world but losing our souls.