Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why Britain is Cutting Aid to India by 2015

By: Dianne Heath

Individual Poverty vs. Overall Economy 
The political institutions within Britain are ignoring large pockets of individual poverty and using rudimentary measurements, such as the World Bank’s decision in 2007 to move India from a low income to a lower middle income country, as the basis for discontinuing aid by 2015. Although 400 million people in India live on less than $1.25 a day, 1.6 million children died due to poverty and "malnutrition figures are among the worst in the world", India's GNI, 4.749 trillion, almost dwarfs Britain's GNI at 2.331 trillion. In fact, the UK's aid only contributes 0.03% to India's national income which makes a strong argument that India is growing more competitive with "developed" nations.

According to reports, India's economy “continues to grow at a faster rate than other large economies." Therefore, Britain has decided that the extreme poverty in India is due to internal inequality as opposed to global inequality. The assumption is that as India continues to develop social & political institutions dedicated to alleviating poverty and allocate more of their newly acquired economic growth to social programs then the vast disparities will decrease. Britain cited India's capacity to lift "60 million people out of poverty just by doubling the amount of money they spent on education and health care since 2006." Britain has decided that the individual poverty within India is not due to economic underdevelopment and that overall measurements of India’s economy are sufficient to measure the necessity for aid.

Capacity for Partnership & the Threat of Competition 
The definition of development seem to evolve according the agendas of those who have the power categorize countries and implement social policy in based on these definitions/categories. As Britain suffers through a recession, many politicians are appeasing the electorate by proclaiming that its rising rival is no longer in need of aid. Instead of using indicators such as life expectancy, education, per capita income or purchasing power as determinants to discontinue aid, Britain and other developed nations are focused on the change of power relations. The U.S. Agency for International Development noted that India's growing power "creates an opportunity to evolve the traditional donor recipient model of development into a true partnership."

Britain doesn't want to fund a potential competitor but they want to maintain their interests in India. Since India's economic institutions appear to mirror Britain's economy, they can engage with each other in a “bilateral relationship” (equal partners & cooperation) as opposed to vertically (exploitation). Britain mentioned being partners in skill sharing (comparable education & industry), trade (integration into the global economy) and investments (India has the economic institutions in place for returns to be made). Skills, trade and investments are traditional components of a complex, monetized & developed economy. Since Britain has acknowledged these elements within India's economy, then India is perceived as developed and no longer in need of aid. Britain's reaction to India choosing a French company to supply fighter planes and Britain's protectionist practices against India's exports reveals India's position as a competitor and growing global power.
Indian Space Research Organisation, via European Pressphoto Agency

In the Image of your Colonizer
The most compelling argument is how India's growing likeness to developed nations is influencing the discourse on aid. As India moves away from being perceived as "other" and more in the image of their colonizer then the more they will be perceived as developed. For example, India's space program was a major indicator to Conservative MPs that they were no longer in need of aid. Space programs are milestones generally reserved for countries defined as First/Second World. Gradually India will be displayed less as an "exotic, mysterious, static" colonial territory that contrasts to the "technological development of the industrial revolution" but a modern country that participates in technological development . As the narrative of India as a less developed nations ends the narrative that they "can't do for themselves" will be forced to end also.

India is also reflecting their former colonizer's behavior by distributing billions in aid and credit to impoverished nations such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh. India isn't representing themselves as passive therefore challenging Britain's notions of India as an underdeveloped nation in need of aid. India’s move to what is defined as modernity is influencing other Britain’s perceptions of their development..

Ghosh, Jayati. "India Will Shed Few Tears over the End of UK Aid." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 9 Nov. 2013. Web. 9 Sept. 2013.

GNI, PPP (current International $)." Data. The World Bank Group, n.d. Web. 09 Sept. 2013.

Majumder, Sanjoy. "UK to End Financial Aid to India by 2015." BBC News. BBC, 9 Nov. 2012. Web. 9 Sept. 2013.

Mandhana, Niharika. "A Global Shift in Foreign Aid, Starting in India." India Ink. New York Times, 15 Nov. 2012. Web. Retrieved 9 Sept. 2013.

Sheppard, Porter, Faust and Nagar (2009) Chapter 2 ‘Measuring, Describing and Mapping Difference and Development’, in A World of Difference: Encountering and Contesting Development. The Guilford Press, New York

Williams, Meth and Willis (2009) Chapter 2 ‘Representing the South’. In Geographies of Developing Areas. Routledge, London: 27-52.