Foreign Aid is Good for our Farmers

There are parts of our community that continues to ask the following question:

Why are we giving away $4b in aid when our farmers are struggling?

At first glance it casts Australia’s Foreign Aid budget in a questionable light. But it is horribly short sighted.

Australia exports over $430 billion worth of goods to the rest of the world, and much of it goes to Asia. The majority of wheat grown in Australia is sold overseas, with the major markets in Asia and the Middle East. Annually, it brings in about $2.4b.

Imagine if every country in Asia had worked their way out of poverty and had the capacity to purchase more? Countries such as Thailand and South Korea were once aid recipients and are now among Australia’s 10 largest trade partners.

In short, there is a very good reason to look after your customers. Treat them well and they will become repeat customers. If you provide a way for them to improve their lives so they can buy more wheat and meat products from Australian farmers then that just makes good economic sense.  That’s it.

We Must Look After Our Own First

“Surely charity begins at home and surely we must look after our own first.”

“We must take care of our own country before we could even consider taking care of somebody else.”

In an attempt to be part of the active conversation around foreign aid and its complexity, here are a few thoughts as to why the above comments, which seem accurate, are wrong. There are so many reasons why we need to reconsider how we look at the issue of foreign aid.

Firstly, and not for nothing, but ‘charity begins at home’ actually comes from the concept that charity gets taught to kids first in their home, that’s where we learn about helping others. It’s not a statement about how our care and concern for other humans must be, first and foremost, on the people that happen to live within the same arbitrary borders as us, and anyone who doesn’t fit into that just has to wait in line.

Secondly, the more money that we put in the places that are so close to us, that would just about be considered Australia, the better off we are. Take Indonesia, for example, the more money that we can put towards their education system, creating a better educated society, increased economic growth and a more stable region. We know that Indonesia will become the 4th biggest economy in the world over the next 20 years, so it makes economic sense to help end poverty there. Surely we can all agree that increased economic growth and stability in Indonesia and the Asian region as a whole is a good thing?

As the Australian Government says:

“Helping poor people out of poverty in areas of strategic importance for Australia is also good for our own peace and stability. Of Australia’s 24 nearest neighbours, 22 are developing countries with some of them particularly fragile and vulnerable.”

Next: Instead of bemoaning about how we are ripping our farmers off, let’s look at why Foreign Aid is good for our farmers.

Oops, I Did it Again

I know not to read the comments. I know that.

It’s something that I tell other people about social media – “Don’t read the comments!”

But, well I forgot for some reason. I don’t know why. When I came across a meme featuring Prime Minister Scott Morrison, put together by people bemoaning about how Australia gives $4 billion worth of foreign aid to other countries and not to our struggling farmers, I should have kept scrolling. But I didn’t. Rookie mistake.

The comments were different versions of “this is disgraceful, let’s look after our own first!” and of course “Charity begins at home!”, not to mention numerous comments on how awful all of our ‘corrupt’ politicians are.

As I read through these comments from people, whom I would consider ignorant and uneducated on the wider issues around foreign aid and global economics, I was stuck. I disagreed with everything that was being said and much was based on misinformation, which made me angry. I imagined that the type of people who are commenting would be those who are unwilling to change their opinion, or have an educated discussion, or any sort of discussion with anyone who disagreed with them without it turning into an argument with personal attacks and name-calling.

I found myself asking, if generosity is what I talk about and seek to live out, how can I be generous to these people? What does generosity look like in this situation?

I think it starts with self-reflection and asking some hard questions.

Am I willing to change my opinion?

Do I get argumentative with people who disagree with me?

How can I serve the discussion around issues where there is conflict?

The answer to the first two questions is ‘it depends’, which is a deeper conversation for another time.

The third question is about how I can serve the discussion, the answer is to participate in it, which is what the next post will be about…

Not Just for Kids – A Simple ‘How-to’ Guide

We love the idea of teaching kids about being generous – because who wants to be the parent of ‘that selfish child’?

No one, that’s who.

But kids learn by osmosis. Just by being in the same proximity as their parents they pick up our patterns of behaviour and attitudes. If you don’t believe me, try swearing once around your small child. I guarantee that will become their new favourite word (or so I’m told, of course I wouldn’t know). Quite simple, if we are not generous then they won’t be.

So, quick, be generous!

But generosity is a muscle – it requires consistent practice. Try giving some money away to a person if you haven’t done it in a while. It’s painful, almost like working out for the first time in a few years.

Here is how we can find a way back to being the generous person we hope our kids turn into when they get older. It just takes some retraining of the ‘generosity muscle’, by doing the following:

  1. Start

This is the hardest part. Making a start. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Take $5, set it aside and think about someone you love/like/tolerate/loathe and buy them a coffee. Just try it out, they may love it and be thankful, or they may tell you that they hate coffee and throw it in your face – it doesn’t matter either way. This is your training, not theirs.

2. Keep going

Now that you’ve made a start, find other ways to use $5 a week to make someone else’s day better. Coffee, snacks, a card or a small gift. $5 won’t buy much but the amount is not important, it is the intent behind it that matters.

3. Grow

Now that you are in the habit of being generous with $5 a week, take on the challenge of growing it. That can either be through multiple $5 acts of generosity or pooling more money together and making a larger impact on someone. A dinner perhaps, a donation to a charity, buying fuel for someone’s car or groceries for another family. Watch how people respond, but most importantly notice how you feel about yourself.

4. See Progress

Momentum builds and it changes the way you turn up in life. As you progress in your generosity journey, you will create different relationships with those around you because you are approaching them with a generosity mindset. You are becoming a different person now – a better version of you.

5. Bring a Friend

No one likes to travel alone…well some people do, but it’s still nice to have someone around sometimes. Find someone around you and take them on the journey of building their generosity muscle – it will change your life and theirs.

5 simple steps to work your generosity muscle and create a positive change in you, your kids and the world.

Have I missed something? I would love to hear from you!