More like: What’s Scotland got to do with the World Bank? Well, there’s £25 million of Scottish money gets pumped into the World Bank and The International Monetary Fund every year. That’s five times as much as the total Jack McConnell spends on his Malawi adventure. And what does that money buy? Well I couldn’t say, but apparently Paul Wolfowitz’s girlfriend was getting paid $132,000 a year as a communications officer. Excuse me, but if the World Bank pays their communications officers that much, it’s quite amazing what a poor return they get for their money. Do you know what the World Bank does (clue, they don’t issue banknote or take deposits)?
But the tradgedy is that, like Clinton and Lewinski, Wolfowitz has managed to become the story and drag the news agenda away from the work he’s supposed to be doing. Instead of focusing on a review of key strategy in Africa that was to be undertaken this weekend, the media get to prey on something they can understand – sleaze. Watch everyone from the Washington Post to the Sunday Times let this tabloid story dominate their coverage.
Should we carry on giving funds to the World Bank? – well that’s the kind of question you never get to vote on. Firstly because all £377 million that Scots pay towards the department of international development goes to London where we don’t control it. And, secondly because even if it is part of the Westminster parties manifestos, nobody ever takes it seriously.
Which is why I applaud the major aid agencies in Scotland for calling Sunday 15th of April “Development Day”. They’re holding a hustings at 2pm at St. Augustines church on George 4th Bridge, Edinburgh and all of the political parties have signed up to take part. Go there and ask difficult questions like: Why is international development a reserved matter? Why do we only invest in Malawi? Why do we spend so little? Why can we afford an upgrade to Trident without any bother but can’t meet the commitment we made at the UN 37 years ago to give 0.7% of our income in development aid?
I don’t expect anyone’s going to cast either of their votes on the basis of a party’s international aid programme, but it’s the sign of a civilised country that we’ve got one (even if it is titchy). And the sign of a confident country that we want to look beyond the limitations of the existing devolution structures and think our way into being a responsible citizen of the planet. The sooner our £377 million is repatriated from London so we can set our own grown up development agenda the better. Then we can decide if we want to carry on funding Paul Wolfowitz’s pecadillos.