DfID Accused of Heightening Inequality Through Support for Private Sector

Monday, April 27, 2015

The UK government is driving inequality in the world’s poorest countries by “dogmatically” funding private sector health and education projects instead of using aid money to boost public systems, a report has said.

Rather than addressing the needs of the world’s poorest people, the Department for International Development’s (DfID) close relationship with the private sector is filling the pockets of big corporations, according to Profiting from poverty, again, a study published on Friday by the campaigning group Global Justice Now (GJN).

Nick Dearden, director of GJN, said: “Aid should be used to support human needs by building up public services in countries that don’t have the same levels of economic privilege as the UK. So it’s shocking that DfID is dogmatically promoting private health and education when it’s been shown that this approach actually entrenches inequality and endangers access.”

The report also questioned DfID’s appointment of Sir Michael Barber, a senior executive at Pearson, the world’s largest maker of textbooks and academic materials, as its chief advisor for education in Pakistan, saying it presented a conflict of interest. DfID oversees an ambitious £350m health and education programme in Pakistan and has partnered with Pearson on a project in Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

“It seems highly inappropriate that executives from a company like Pearson can be acting in an official capacity at DfID, while their company provides commercial services that would directly benefit from the type of decisions being taken by DfID,” Dearden said.

A DfID spokesman said: “We have firm policies in place to prevent any conflict of interest in our work.”

Pearson, which operates in more than 70 countries, launched its affordable learning programme in 2012. The initiative is a for-profit venture fund that uses capital investment “to help millions of children in the world access a quality education in a cost effective, profitable and scalable manner”, according to the company.

Source: The Guardian (link opens in a new window)

Education, Health Care, Investing
public health, venture capital