One Direction: is there ANYTHING they don't know about world poverty?

One Direction have urged their millions of fans to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, urging him to maintain the UK's (0.7 percent of GDP) foreign aid budget and to clamp down on tax avoidance by British companies abroad.

This is fantastic news. What it means, presumably, is that the boys will now be winding up the companies they established in 2012 - 1D Media and PPM Music - in order to reduce their tax liabilities and will be donating the money they previously saved through canny accounting to one of the plethora of superb projects Britain's foreign aid budget helps maintain.

Since One Direction's earnings may reach $1 billion this year, and since their previous tax arrangement saved them an estimated $220,000 on every $1 million earned, this could mean that as much as $220 million One Direction income which would otherwise have been squandered on haircuts, vanity mirrors, tight trousers, hair gel, fake-stubble-effect-face-glitter, blow driers, and deluxe, diamond-studded blackhead-squeezers can now be spent on CAUSES THAT, LIKE, REALLY MATTER.

Here are some examples of British foreign aid spending which the boys from One Direction can now emulate:

£6.2 million - spent so that the Government of Indonesia "can provide more effective leadership and management of climate change programming to deliver emissions reduction and poverty reduction outcomes".

£420,000 buys an amusement park and Ferris wheel (now unfortunately abandoned) in Lashkar Gar, Afghanistan.

£1.4 billion (over four years) on aid for Pakistan enables the Pakistani government to feel less guilty about blowing its budget on two squadrons of Chinese J-10 fighter jets ($1.4 billion) and a new fleet of Chinese submarines - rather than on helping its own poor and needy.

Other worthy projects financed by the British taxpayer - and soon, with luck, enthusiastically supported by One Direction too - include: help advising women in Brazil on sustainable fisheries; wind turbines for Uganda; and the advice - charged at £4,404 a day - of a former Tony Blair aide on how to improve Pakistan's education system.

Some commentators, such as Zambian-born Dambisa Moyo, have argued that foreign aid spending does more harm than good. In her book Dead Aid, she argues:

"Foreign aid props up corrupt governments – providing them with freely usable cash. These corrupt governments interfere with the rule of law, the establishment of transparent civil institutions and the protection of civil liberties, making both domestic and foreign investment in poor countries unattractive. Greater opacity and fewer investments reduce economic growth, which leads to fewer job opportunities and increasing poverty levels. In response to growing poverty, donors give more aid, which continues the downward spiral of poverty."

But Dambisa Moyo only went to Harvard where she probably spent much of her time in libraries. One Direction, on the other hand, have travelled the world, performing in many of its biggest stadia and experiencing poverty at first hand when their maids knocked on their doors and asked whether they wanted their rooms serviced.

One Direction's principled decision is especially brave, given that it could now put them at great personal risk should they ever find their dressing room next to fellow global megastar Adele. Unlike One Direction, Adele is not a fan of the British tax system. Indeed, two years ago, in an interview in Q magazine she declared:

"When I got my tax bill in from 19 I was ready to go and buy a gun and randomly open fire."

But if things really kick off, One Direction can presumably rely on Bono (a fellow foreign aid enthusiast and expert in tax-related creativity) to get their back and beat Adele off with his shillelagh.


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