Yesterday’s launch of the Venezuelan oil funded low fares initiative has once again led to charges of a rich city stealing from the poor citizens of Venezuela and much public hand-wringing about deals with ‘dictators’.
These criticisms are more credible where they don’t come from parties whose ministers have a less than glorious record in selling arms to repressive regimes or tying aid to poorer nations with demands to allow foreign ownership of natural resources.
There are legitimate questions of why a city as rich as London needs any form of foreign aid but the answers – chronic under investment in infrastructure, a minimum wage which fails to reflect the true cost of life in the capital, an unwillingness to tax the mega-rich mega corporations which make London their home and a need to build more social housing – are as unpalatable to the questioners as the oil deal they so publicly oppose.
As a result of this scheme 250,000 Londoners will have affordable access to the capital’s buses making it easier to shop, seek work and enjoy the city. That can only be a good thing.
One of the biggest defence of the subsidy has been that it allows the Venezuelans to access world class expertise well below the costs likely to be charged by global consultancy firms. It’s now up the Mayor, and any would-be successors, to ensure this promise is fulfilled.