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Friday, May 25, 2007

Don Clarke Deserves a Little Scrutiny

National MP Murray McCully examines some of the $369 million this country wasted on "foreign aid" last year.

From McCully & Co

New Zealand taxpayers will be delighted to hear that last year’s $369 million purchased, for example, a programme to promote gender equity in the greater Mekong Region. Another far-sighted and highly relevant initiative involved “poverty elimination” amongst indigenous people in rural Nicaragua. And Nicaragua, we assume, was identified for sentimental reasons, as the venue at which the majority of the Cabinet will have attended Socialist International Conferences during their formative political years.

Last year’s $369 million also purchased, on behalf of New Zealand taxpayers, “poverty elimination” programmes in the western states of China. Mr Peters and his colleagues appear not to have paused to consider the significant irony of pumping New Zealand aid money into China, which in turn is pumping its own aid money, in increasingly lavish doses, into the Pacific.

And if you really want to get Mr Peters looking prickly and defensive, just ask him about the $500,000 cheque he authorised to be spent in the Palestinian Authority in March last year soon after Hamas had won the national elections. Yes, that would be the same Hamas that was still promising to wipe out Israel and threatening to use violent means to achieve this objective.

Murray McCully is right to criticise such programmes, but the real story here is who directs this money to such dubious uses and why?

One person who deserves some scrutiny is Don Clarke.

Since 2002 Clarke has been director of NZAID’s Global Group and consequently has had huge influence in determining the destination of hundreds of millions of NZ taxpayers dollars.

I have already covered Clarke's long term links with Maoism and the former Workers Communist League here.

It is interesting that McCully singled out projects in China, Nicaragua, Vietnam, and Palestine as all were major focuses of Workers Communist League activity. Clarke himself has some affinity with several of those areas.

In the early "70s, Maoist students controlled NZUSA and oganised several student delegations to China. In April 1975 it was agreed at an NZUSA meeting that Dunedin CORSO activist, Don Clarke, would be chairman of the 1975 China trip selection panel. Several of these delegates went on to join the WCL.

Nicaragua became a big focus for the WCL in the '80s. Several WCL members travelled there, many with "coffee picking" brigades.

Don Clarke was a member of the first NZ brigade to Nicaragua in 1986/87.

In March 1990, Clarke, representing the "Nicaragua Must Survive Campaign" wrote a full page article for the Workers Communist League's "Unity" newspaper on the recent electoral defeat of the Sandinista government.

Vietnam became a big focus for the WCL in the late '80s. Several WCL supporters were involved in the Vietnam Action Information Network.

Clarke was a spokesman for VAIN and its descendants from 1990 to at least 1994.

My recent post on the Wellington Palestine Group shows that Clarke's WCL friends also maintained a long interest in Palestinian affairs.

Should it be a matter of concern that a life long socialist activist, almost certainly a former member of NZ's most influential Maoist sect, the WCL, should now be in such an influential position?

Don Clarke's agency is sending hundreds of millions of your dollars to countries, many of which he has shown past ideological sympathy for. That is no crime, but at least some of that money seems to be ending up with some very dodgy organisations.

Are there some obvious questions here?


Anonymous Reid of America said...

Foreign aid should never involve giving money to third world governments.

If you want to aid poor people in the third world the aid should be given directly to the needy. Development projects should be managed by corporations hired by donor governments.

The best way for third world nations to develop is to make their nations attractive to capital. Enact property rights enforced by rule of law then capital and development will follow.

Unfortunately, most foreign aid retards development because it allows third world governments to avoid capitalist reforms while enriching corrupt leaders.

It seems NZ foreign aid is done more to be good international leftists than to help poor third worlders.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

I agree on every point Reid

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Reid of America said...

My opinions on third world development have been greatly influenced by the Peruvian economist Hernando DeSoto. DeSoto's 2003 book "The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else" should be required reading for anyone interested in third world development. His main thesis is that third worlders need title to their property in order to access credit and develop a capitalist infrastructure.

Bono has been advocating this cause. DeSoto has been nominated for the Nobel prize in economics and deserves it.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

De Soto is a bit of a hero to some ACT members, like myself. His views reinforce our uncompromising attitude to the importance of property rights.

Secure prperty rights made the West what it is. Lack of prperty rights keeps much of the world in poverty.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Cameron said...

"Lack of prperty rights keeps much of the world in poverty."

Yes exactly but I'm not sure if we're talking about the same thing. For example when big mining companies, such as Freeport McMoRan, go to places, like West Papua, and completely trample on the property rights of the indigenous people living in the area. The Suharto regime gave Freeport the power to remove villagers living in areas required for mining without compensation.

This scenario has been repeated by multinationals from the developed World across the developing World -causing a whirlwhind of destruction and poverty.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Property rights have no value when they can be corrupted by those with the authority to protect them.

In this country property rights are fast being eroded through use of taxation which grows faster than a healthy baby on mothers milk.

In the third world its the gun. here its taxation.


11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trevor, The figures you quote boggle the mind and make my eyes water.
Meanwhile to name one example, our health system is in chaos due to an oversupply of bureaucratic camp followers and a lack of money.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Cameron-you're quite right. That kind of thing happens all the time. The answer is rule of law, equality before the law and inviolable property rights.

If a little old lady refuses to sell her cottage to a developer and that holds up a huge shopping complex-tough.

If a Papuan tribe wants to farm taro and pigs on top of a mountain of bauxite and refuses to be bought out or moved on-thats the way it is.

Property rights are the basis of all other rights and should not be tampered with.


You're right about taxation replacing the gun in the "developed" world.

If you weaken property rights (as the government did when it forced Telecom to "unbundle" you pay a huge price in unrealised future development.

BTW, did you send that piece on Mr Middlemass? I never recieved it.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trevor. i sent it last Wednesday. It never came back so I assumed you got it.
i wonder where it went?


5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many Trevor Loudon's are there I wonder?

5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as central and or local government have power over our property through such instruments as "Compulsory purchase orders" We live with a loaded gun at our heads.

5:37 PM  
Blogger ex-expat said...

Vietnam is a communist country in name only, I've never had more people trying to sell me shit I don't need than in Vietnam.

12:56 AM  

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