A reader emails about Oxfam, wealth and welfarism

Yesterday’s article about the wonky Oxfam claims about wealth and income inequality prompted a reader and commenter to email his thoughts.

Hi Whaleoil Team,

Just some thoughts on the Oxfam article.

This latest effort from Oxfam got me thinking about big picture Social Welfarism. For example we know in New Zealand that our (Social welfare) hand up became a hand out and in short order we had inter-generational welfare recipients in the same family/households.

The lesson they had learned was that personal actions carried little or no consequence and the taxpayer would pick up the tab and pay for their housing, food, raising their kids, schooling etc.

I know that the National Government’s drive over recent years to target the recidivists among them is starting to pay dividends in forcing them to work and take care of their kids or else.

Taking that lesson out to a macro level, I wonder about the “aid” that goes to the islands in the Pacific and third world/developing countries and if it actually does any real good?

Not in terms of saving immediate lives etc. And I’m not talking about the emergency type stuff where cyclones come through and flatten everything. To me, this is where you should be helping out your neighbors and mates.  

It just strikes me that of the billions of $$$ of aid given or gifted over the years in various development programs has not really advanced the countries that much or has it?

For example we know that much of the UN’s effort get pilfered by corrupt officials in many of the so called starving countries where the aid gets distributed. Yet nothing ever seems to happen to those responsible.

I don’t know what the answers are – I merely pose the question. Have we done too much and now created an expectation that the West will save everyone? In effect, do we now have countries not doing enough for themselves? Have the West created a welfare dependency culture that has made the problem of developing countries doing enough to sort their own problems out.

It’s a rhetorical question and I’m not advocating abandoning aid programs etc but I think its worthy of discussion.

To talk specifically about one of his points…the aid to the Pacific nations.

I know a bit about this…especially with regard to Fiji.

After the Bainimarama coup the government places so-called “smart sanctions” on Fiji and that including preventing aid to Fiji. same with Australia.

I spoke with the then Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum about this. His reply stunned me. He said it was the best thing to ever happen to Fiji. It meant they had to find their own solutions, and look at growing the economy in their own ways rather than rely on aid. It meant that Fiji grew up…it also meant that New Zealand’s aid blackmail was no longer effective and could no longer be used as a weapon against Fiji.

Aid is just a fancy word for welfare. It actually disables recipients and rarely enables them.


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  • symgardiner

    MFAT run a scheme where islanders come to NZ to work on orchards. They might be here for 6 months or longer. They work like stink. MFAT provide night classes on all kinds of things like computers, cooking, small business accounting, etc. The workers come away for a good amount of money in their pocket and practical skills to take back home. Many use the money to start their own businesses.
    These workers are doing jobs like picking and thinning and sorting… jobs our welfare ‘workers’ can’t bring themselves to do.
    Everyone wins and there is little chance of corruption because it doesn’t involve the island governments.

  • Darth Smith

    Where are you hideing cam come out come where ever you are there nice bankrupt notice awaiting you why are you hideing chicken yellow ,coward ??????

  • MaryLou

    Yes, I agree. A bit long, but this is worth a read – was emailed this:

    Kevin Myers (born 30 March 1947) is an Irish journalist and writer. He writes for the Irish edition of the Sunday Times, having previously been a columnist for the Irish Independent and a former contributor to The Irish Times, where he wrote the “An Irishman’s Diary” opinion column several times weekly. Until 2005, he wrote for the UK Sunday Telegraph.
    His articles criticise left-wing opinion and the “liberal consensus”, sometimes incorporating hyperbole, sarcasm and parody.
    This essay appeared in The Irish Independent:

    Somalia is not a humanitarian disaster; it is an evolutionary disaster. The current drought is not the worst in 50 years, as the BBC and all the aid organisations claim.
    It is nothing compared to the droughts in 1960/61 or 73/74.
    And there are continuing droughts every 5 years or so.
    It’s just that there are now four times the population; having been kept alive by famine relief, supplied by aid organisations, over the past 50 years.
    So, of course, the effects of any drought now, is a famine. They cannot even feed themselves in a normal rainfall year.

    Worst yet, the effects of these droughts, and poor nutrition in the first
    3 years of the a child’s life, have a lasting effect on the development of the infant brain, so that if they survive, they will never achieve a normal IQ ..
    Consequently, they are selectively breeding a population who cannot be educated , let alone one that is not being educated; a recipe for disaster

    We are seeing this impact now, and it can only exacerbate, to the detriment of their neighbours, and their environment as well. This scenario can only end in an even worse disaster; with even worse suffering, for those benighted people, and their descendants.
    Eventually, some mechanism will intervene, be it war, disease or starvation.

    So what do we do? Let them starve?
    What a dilemma for our Judeo/Christian/Islamic Ethos; as well as Hindu/Buddhist morality.
    And this is beginning to happen in Kenya, Ethiopia and other countries in Asia, like Pakistan.
    Is this the beginning of the end of civilisation?

    AFRICA is giving nothing to anyone outside Africa — apart from AIDS and new diseases.
    Even as we see African states refusing to take action to restore something resembling civilisation in Zimbabwe, the Begging bowl for Ethiopia is being passed around to us out of Africa, yet again.
    It is nearly 25 years since the famous Feed The World campaign began in Ethiopia, and in that time Ethiopia’s population has grown from 33.5 million to 78+ million today.
    So, why on earth should I do anything to encourage further catastrophic demographic growth in that country?
    Where is the logic? There is none.

    To be sure, there are two things saying that logic doesn’t count.
    One is my conscience, and the other is the picture, yet again, of another wide-eyed child, yet again, gazing, yet again, at the camera, which yet again, captures the tragedy of children starving.

    Sorry. My conscience has toured this territory on foot and financially.
    Unlike most of you, I have been to Ethiopia; like most of you, I have stumped up the loot to charities to stop starvation there.
    The wide-eyed boy-child we saved, 20 years or so ago, is now a low IQ, AK 47-bearing moron, siring children whenever the whim takes him and blaming the world because he is uneducated, poor and left behind.
    There is no doubt a good argument why we should prolong this predatory and dysfunctional economic, social and sexual system but I do not know what it is.
    There is, on the other hand, every reason not to write a column like this.
    It will win no friends and will provoke the self-righteous wrath of, well, the self-righteous hand wringing, letter writing wrathful individuals; a species which never fails to contaminate almost every debate in Irish life with its sneers and its moral superiority. It will also probably enrage some of the finest men in Irish life, like John O’Shea, of Goal; and the Finucane brothers, men whom I admire enormously.

    So be it.

    But, please, please, you self-righteously wrathful, spare me mention of our own Irish Famine, with this or that lazy analogy.
    There is no comparison.
    Within 20 years of the Famine, the Irish population was down by 30%. Over the equivalent period, thanks to western food, the Mercedes 10-wheel truck and the Lockheed Hercules plane, Ethiopia’s population has more than doubled.

    Alas, that wretched country is not alone in its madness.
    Somewhere, over the rainbow, lies Somalia, another fine land of violent, AK 47-toting, khat-chewing, girl-circumcising, permanently tumescent layabouts and housing pirates of the ocean.
    Indeed, we now have almost an entire continent of sexually hyperactive, illiterate indigents, with tens of millions of people who only survive because of help from the outside world or allowances by the semi-communist Governments they voted for, money supplied by borrowing it from the World Bank!

    This dependency has not stimulated political prudence or common sense.
    Indeed, voodoo idiocy seems to be in the ascendant, with the president of South Africa being a firm believer in the efficacy of a little tap water on the post-coital penis as a sure preventative against AIDS infection.
    Needless to say, poverty, hunger and societal meltdown have not prevented idiotic wars involving Tigre, Uganda, Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea etcetera.

    Broad brush-strokes, to be sure.
    But broad brush-strokes are often the way that history paints its gaudier, if more decisive, chapters.
    Japan, China, Russia, Korea, Poland, Germany, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the 20th century have endured worse broad brush-strokes than almost any part of Africa. They are now — one way or another — virtually all giving aid to or investing in Africa, whereas Africa, with its vast savannah’s and its lush pastures, is giving almost nothing to anyone, apart from AIDS.

    Meanwhile, Africa’s peoples are outstripping their resources, and causing catastrophic ecological degradation.
    By 2050, the population of Ethiopia will be 177 million; the equivalent of France, Germany and Benelux today, but located on the parched and increasingly Protein-free wastelands of the Great Rift Valley.
    So, how much sense does it make for us actively to increase the adult population of what is already a vastly over-populated, environmentally devastated and economically dependent country?

    How much morality is there in saving an Ethiopian child from starvation today, for it to survive to a life of brutal circumcision, poverty, hunger, violence and sexual abuse, resulting in another half-dozen such wide-eyed children, with comparably jolly little lives ahead of them?

    Of course, it might make you feel better, which is a prime reason for so much charity!

    But that is not good enough.
    For self-serving generosity has been one of the curses of Africa. It has sustained political systems which would otherwise have collapsed.
    It prolonged the Eritrean-Ethiopian war by nearly a decade.
    It is inspiring Bill Gates’ programme to rid the continent of malaria, when, in the almost complete absence of personal self-discipline, that disease is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now operating.
    If his programme is successful, tens of millions of children who would otherwise have died in infancy will survive to adulthood, he boasts.

    • This is one of the most realistic articles on the subject I have read. Thank you for reprinting it here. Malthus had the same dilemma and although he also summed up this critical issue I think Myers has made it challenging and legible. He is so right as to reduced IQ, resort to violent gang/tribe culture as a substitute for ‘family’ (much like the gangs here except they don’t usually sport AK47s) and continued inability to feed the ever increasing hungry mouths.
      We see the pictures of the wide-eyed, pot bellied starving children and our heart goes out to them. But we feel much less sympathy for them as they grow to become staunch members of boko haram or such, thriving on sadistic violence and at age 10 or less, armed and dangerous ferals.
      While totally non PC, Africa would be infinitely safer, more advanced and much more ‘civilised’ by leaving nature and Darwin take its course.

      • Geoff

        I worry about the animals.

    • Mark

      His follow up article, “Writing what I should have written so many years ago” is also excellent,thanks for posting this.

    • Captain Darling

      Excellent article. I’ve always believed that droughts and famine are a natural population control in Africa, and while that may sound a bit harsh, as this article says, trying to save all the starving has disastrous results.
      Bob Geldolf has a lot to answer for.

    • Quinton Hogg

      Everyone should read this article.

    • botti

      Great article. There was an excellent piece by Garrett Hardin entitled “Lifeboat Ethics’ which argued against aid. Hardin’s analogy being that when the lifeboat overloads then everyone obviously drowns.


      • MaryLou

        Yes, that is so, and it works both on an individual basis and an international basis. I often wonder how much better we could support people who really deserve it in NZ if we weren’t paying people who don’t. I wouldn’t like to live on an invalids benefit, what with the real costs of therapy that often aren’t funded.

  • Greg M

    The cynic in me has decided that foreign aid is where poor people in rich countries give money to rich people in poor countries.
    Handouts never work. People need to be assisted and educated out of the need for handouts, and into learning how to take responsibility for their own future.

    • MaryLou

      Give a man a fish…

      • Reaper

        Even that has its problems. While living in Swaziland I got to know some people who were there working for World Vision, setting up a little model farm to teach the locals how to grow beans, which WV had decided would be a good thing for them to grow. Trouble was, Swazis do not eat beans and had absolutely no interest in learning to grow them. So these people spent a lot of money setting up a lovely little bean farm that nobody ever came to see. They were on obscene salaries, living in a very nice house, spending enough in the foreigners’ bar every night to feed a Swazi family for 6 months or more, driving brand new 4WDs and what irked me the most was, never gave the locals lifts. In a predominantly rural area you always saw women walking, carrying 20l of water on their heads, a baby on their back and chickens for dinner in their hands and they normally had several miles to walk. I always stopped and picked them up but these arrogant fools never would. They wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars of people’s kind donations and are one of the reasons I never give to these charities.

        I know this is not quite the same as foreign aid but I’m sure the results are often similar.

  • Darth Smith

    What comes around goes around you arsehole hahahahahahanan,non we glout at you
    We. All seen your summons


  • LabTested

    The Economist this week has an article about American Indian Casinos & how they disperse their profits. Some give annual ‘per Capita’ payments to tribe members. The study found the higher the payouts they greater % of tribe members were living in ‘Poverty’ – although ‘Poverty’ was not defined.

    ….Per capita payments have grown as gaming revenues have risen. “These
    payments can be destructive because the more generous they become, the
    more people fall into the trap of not working,”

    Of the 17 tribes in the study that handed casino profits directly to
    members, ten saw their poverty rates rise. Of the seven tribes that did
    not, only two saw such an increase


  • rua kenana

    Foreign aid to so many countries has in large part been used for

    (a) buying weapons, often to suppress their own citizenry
    (b) paying for luxurious lifestyles for local politicians/dictators
    (c) building massive overseas (e.g. Swiss) bank accounts for these
    (d) funding the massive local corruption that is so prevalent in most (all?) recipient countries
    (e) paying people smugglers to offload large numbers of their populations onto North America, Australia or the wealthier parts of Europe.

    Can also note the economist Peter Bauer’s observation of some years back that “foreign aid is a means whereby poor people in rich countries give money to rich people in poor countries”. Bauer had a distinguished career and had spent a lot of it studying this phenomenon.

  • cows4me

    “Aid is just a fancy word for welfare”, it’s also a fancy word for those that make handsome incomes from aid and politicians pushing certain ideologies. Why we believe that continually giving to those that will not help themselves is going to change these people has to be some of most dishonest thinking or it is simply down right stupid. Most pushing the aid barrow have more to lose than those receiving the aid be it aid agencies or politicians .

    • Wheninrome

      Aid and the guilt the barrow pushers try and create if you say no to their cause.
      “Aren’t you lucky to live where you do” “these poor people” etc.,
      They have created a job for themselves, some are paid a commission. It is a very far cry from the original concept.
      My son while studying supported a young girl (12) in Africa, ($1.00 a day or something) we saw the pictures, read the stories of how well she was doing at school etc., this young girl never seemed to grow up and graduate for all her “schooling and excellence” 5 years passed and he had graduated by then and kept paying . I asked him one day “don’t you think she would have a job by now? The question was never answered by the Aid Agency. He cancelled his payment, felt a bit of a muggins, but a lesson learnt. He gives in other more practical ways now.

    • ex-JAFA

      It’s another guilt tax for how the West has buggered up the Earth. Much more of Africa was lush and arable land right up until the Industrial Revolution (give or take a few thousand years), and is therefore our fault.

  • DavidW

    Fiji Attorney-General Sayed-Khaiyum’s comment almost word for word echoes the words of a representative of North Korea to me in 1998 when we visited to be told when discussing food aid “we would rather a few millions starved to death than become dependant on foreign aid. Only give us hard currency please or start export business that can bring in US dollars.”
    Horses for courses I know but the attitude hasn’t done much good for the 27 million North Koreans who believe they live in paradise.

  • Totara

    For anybody wanting to get an in-depth understanding of this issue, I recommend a visit to your local library for these two books:

    Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power Prosperity and Poverty

    Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa

  • Brian Badonde

    What annoys me most about the aid going to the Pacific, is the fact that we in the past would at least get some reciprocal trade in exporting our NZ Made foods and other products to the aid recipients. This has now completely changed and most of these Islands are now importing directly from Asia and other countries.
    I highlight one specific example – we give money to the Cook Islands to help fund their healthcare. However, they now source the cheapest frozen chicken from Asia that they can find exposing themselves to all manner of bugs. NZ does not allow imported chicken due to safety concerns. So when they get sick from salmonella because they didn’t buy their chicken from NZ, why should we fund the cost of treating them.

  • caochladh

    Its not just about foreign aid here. These mongrels have gone way past their original mandate to fund organisations that those who donated to Oxfam would probably find objection to. “Between 2011 and 2013, the Dutch branch, known as Oxfam Novib, provided
    almost $500,000 (largely from government funds provided ostensibly for
    humanitarian aid) to one of the most radical BDS leaders, the Coalition
    of Women for Peace (CWP). This group also received funds from Oxfam GB
    (Great Britain)”

  • Tony

    Foreign aid should never be money. It should be goods and services from NZ. At least this way some NZ companies benefit but it is time that there is a review of all overseas aid.

  • timemagazine

    Aid=redistribution of wealth.

  • Benoni

    One good type of foreign aid is to contribute to a micro-finance bank. These micro finance banks loan to small entrepreneurs in developing countries who would never get a loan from their banking system. Sums borrowed average about $250 and finance the planting of cash crops rather than the usual subsistence farming, or furnishings for a cafe, or a buffalo to plow the fields. The loan helps gets these people producing way more than they can without capital and when the loans have been repaid they are loaned out to others. A “bank” could be started for NZ $7500 6 years ago. Tear fund is one organisation that does them and there are others.

  • Mikev

    Oxfam is an ultra left wing political lobby group that use their guise as a charity to fund their socialist agenda. If people want to donate to charities don’t give to Oxfam as they are not a charity. I am not sure if they have tax exempt status in NZ but they shouldn’t have.

  • friardo

    In recent years with there being insufficient workers to pick apples, asparagus etc because unskilled (toughers) workers couldn’t be found, the government has allowed Pacific islanders to come here to work.

    And work they do, then in the evenings they are offered training in anything they think will help them back home in the islands. More and more are taking up the Ministry of Foreign Affairs funded training offers in everything from sewing to basic geometry for buildings, small engine maintenance to cooking, using computers, solar energy systems.

    The training seems to be done mostly by retired teachers, tradesmen and professionals some of whom donate their time but most are paid by MFA. So the aid money stays in NZ, the training is exported with the islander upon their return. The Government should certainly be praised for such a scheme.