On June 29, the Daily Mail published a malicious and error-filled attack of the Millennium Villages Project. It ran the headline: "African Village Where Every Family Gets £7500 From The British Taxpayer." This claim was absurdly wrong on many counts. The newspaper and the reporter were warned about the error, but they persisted nonetheless.
Today the paper has begun to back off. The revised headline reads “The African village where every family gets £7500 spent on them in aid project funded mainly by British taxpayers." This is the Daily Mail’s first step away from its botched reporting. More will be needed.
The truth is simple. The UK DFID aid budget for two communities in Northern Ghana comes to £9.5 million over five years (another £2 million will be outlays that do not go to the community). There are up to 30,000 people in the community, so expenditures will be around £75 pounds per person per year, or around £400 for a family of five each year. Even if one adds the spending over five years, expenditures would be less than a third of £7,500 for a family of five.
When presented with this simple arithmetic, the Daily Mail decided to puff up the spending numbers by adding money that the Government of Ghana itself will spend in the community. This is why the paper backed off the claim that the money comes from the British taxpayer and added the word “mainly,” without explaining the shift. Now the Daily Mail is in the business of trying to put a bad light on spending by the Government of Ghana itself on the schools, clinics, roads, and so forth in an impoverished Ghanaian community. This is public spending as in any community in the world. Fortunately, the Government of Ghana is stepping up spending throughout the impoverished northern region of the country.
The paper also shifted the headline from “every family gets £7500” to “every family gets £7500 spent on them.” This is another sly little retreat. The original headline deliberately implied that families receive money, which they do not. The funds from DFID are used for community investments in schools, clinics, roads, power, water and sanitation, and the like. The revised headline is still wrong, just a little less so. The families do not get the money spent “on them.”
The Daily Mail's continuing phony reference to £7500 for every family is one of willful distortion, in order to do damage to DFID and the Millennium Village Project. Yet the numbers don’t come close to adding up to £7500, and the paper knows that full well. In fact, it's obvious that no number will apply to “every family,” for the reasons just explained.
We knew from the start of our interaction with the newspaper reporter that the article was going to misrepresent the work in Ghana to try to discredit British foreign assistance and the Millennium Villages Project. What is surprising is how clumsy they are in their malice when their mistakes can be exposed with a simple calculator.