World leaders have pledged to commit $20bn over three years to develop agriculture in poor countries. The Group of Eight summit of rich countries in L’Aquila, Italy, had aimed to pledge $15bn , but a last whip-round before delegations left came up with an extra $5bn to make a bigger headline figure.
Exactly how much of the promised money was new or how it would be managed was not disclosed, but UK officials candidly admitted that their pledge of $1.8bn had been reallocated to food and agriculture from other aid lines, the same scam that we saw at the London G20 (remember the $5 trillion package) and countless Brown budgets.
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s billionaire prime minister, was stung by accusations last week that Italy had cut its aid budget, saying he would rectify the mistake. Despite that assurance, Marcello Fondi, a senior foreign ministry official, later disclosed that his ministry’s aid budget would fall by a further 10 per cent in 2010, according to Save the Children.
Clearly, the key to success in international aid politics is total sincerity. Fake that and youv'e got it made.