World leaders are meeting this weekend a few miles from my home in Penzance, Cornwall, in what could be our best and last chance to reverse the UK’s destructive aid cuts that followed the Foreign Office takeover of the Department for International Development last year.
Up to March of this year, I was proud to work for DfID, having spent many years supporting health systems and confronting disease in some of the most challenging settings in the world. Most recently, I was senior health adviser in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, where our support was vital to confronting Covid-19 and ensuring women can access reproductive health services. The shameful and heartbreaking prospect of having to dismantle this vital support led me to resign and seek more worthwhile employment elsewhere.
The outrage and horror that these cuts have generated is encouraging and remarkable; charities, politicians of all hues and religious leaders have joined an almost unanimous clamour of: “Don’t do it!” These cuts are shortsighted, destructive and will save little in the short term, while increasing global risk through weakened healthcare, education and environmental protection.
This weekend, G7 leaders have the opportunity of adding their voice to this pressure, and encouraging the UK to abandon reckless and selfish plans which will destroy its reputation for years to come. Let’s hope Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab et al will listen to them.
In the run-up to the G7 summit, much has been written on Joe Biden’s proposal for a global corporation tax on multinational companies (G7 tax reform: what has been agreed and which companies will it affect?, 6 June). However, less attention has been given to his other big global economic play – fiscal spending.
The scale and size – $7 trillion – of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan are impressive, but the pre-summit comments of the US treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, about “pre-Covid levels of GDP” suggest that the world’s largest economy is not ready to go cold turkey to beat its addiction to top-down, macroeconomic thinking and GDP dependency.
To genuinely “Build Back Better”, Boris Johnson, Biden and the other leaders need to heed the Civil Society 7 engagement group’s call for a “transformative shift in financing, decision-making and power to the communities that are directly affected by each issue”, and invite prosperity to join them at their Carbis Bay table.
They need to acknowledge that overcoming the triple threat of global recession, climate change and persistent inequality cannot be achieved with the same economic thinking that repeatedly failed to address these threats before the pandemic. And they should agree that it is time for a new definition of prosperity. One that is less concerned with aggregate economic wealth and growth, and more attentive to the things that people care about and need – secure and good-quality livelihoods, good public services, and a clean and healthy environment.
Prof Henrietta L Moore
Founder and director, Institute for Global Prosperity