Rather a wide interpretation of how to uplift poverty-stricken people
Questions are being asked about how the UK government's private equity arm, the CDC Group plc (formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation) spends the billions it is allocated to alleviate international poverty, The Guardian newspaper reported Friday.
Among a number of controversial projects are an unidentified Singapore online gambling company (there are only two licensed to operate) and expenditure of more than GBP 1 billion on consultants and think tanks.
Critics of the CDC, which falls under Priti Patel, the international development secretary, have been further motivated by an analysis of the CDC business portfolio by The Times newspaper revealing that the foreign aid money spent by the group has instead gone to a list of companies which cater for comfortable middle classes in fast-growing economies, such as India and China.
Among the recipients of CDC investment funds are:
* Several large shopping malls in Nigeria, often with accompanying gated communities, and a chain of electronics stores selling iPhones and flat-screen televisions in Egypt;
* Daraz, the Pakistani version of Amazon, and an Indian online fashion retailer called Jabong. They have received GBP 32 million between them in direct funding from CDC;
* Restaurant chains in Vietnam, India and Peru and a Chinese budget hotel franchise;
* An African e-commerce company, and an online gaming platform in Singapore valued at $2.5 million;
* Outdoor advertising businesses in Ghana and China and a company that supplies IMAX cinema equipment in the Far East.
Patel has been outspoken in her criticism of the UK foreign aid budget and has proposed CDC as a more cost-effective solution, recommending that it's GBP 1.5 billion budget be quadrupled.
The Guardian reports that in November the National Audit Office found that CDC was struggling to show that its work made a lasting impact on people's lives in poor countries.
CDC critic Tim Jones, policy officer at Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: "These cases show that money which should be used for poverty reduction is being directed at private companies benefiting wealthy consumers.
"In many cases the use of private equity funds means that CDC has no control over where the money ends up. Aid money should be supporting public services and infrastructure, not private profit."
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