States do invest in the infrastructure of other states: the Chinese in our nuclear industry, for instance, the French in our energy, the Germans in our railways. It is perceived, on the right, as an inevitable and generative consequence of globalisation, and on the left as a crying shame that the principle of nationalisation still holds, only our own nation gets none of the benefit. What neither side would claim was that the investment was undertaken as a favour to us, to “lift us out of poverty”.Yet when we invest in private African agribusiness – DfID spent £600m on this scheme – we do so under the guise of “raising 50 million people out of poverty by 2022”. In fact, it was a for-profit venture that did nothing of the sort: the UN rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter, found that it had exacerbated land insecurity among smallholders and accelerated seed privatisation. The UK aid watchdog, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, had a slightly kinder reading, that it was “little more than a means of promotion for the companies involved and a chance to increase their influence in policy debates”. This is, through any lens, investment in the privatisation of another nation’s infrastructure.You can defend or promote it on the same economic grounds as the Chinese might defend their interest in Hinkley Point, but to dress it up as benevolence is critically damaging to the good faith of the British internationalist project. In rhetorical and logical terms, it returns us to the age of justifying a colonial land grab on the grounds that we were arriving with the “gift of capitalism and development”.

Source: The UK peddles a cynical colonialism and calls it aid | Zoe Williams | Opinion | The Guardian

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