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East Africa (Sustainable Development)

Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th February 1996.

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Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham 12:00 am, 26th February 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of the aid budget is directed towards sustainable development in east Africa. [15268]

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

In 1994–95, 7.6 per cent. of total British bilateral aid was spent on sustainable development in east Africa—Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In 1993, the latest year in which figures for our share of multilateral programmes to the three countries are available, 6.4 per cent. of the aid budget was spent on bilateral and multilateral aid to east Africa.

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that the quality of aid is more important than the straight quantity of aid? In order for our aid programme to be successful in east Africa, it is vital that the recipient countries pursue more sensible economic policies than they show signs of doing at present.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I agree that our aid should be given to countries where there is not only poverty and a need for aid but a good developmental case and a good case for economic restructuring—Uganda is an excellent example. Our aid in Uganda has helped to achieve an average annual economic growth rate of 6 per cent. over the past eight years.

Photo of Miss Joan Lestor Miss Joan Lestor , Eccles

Notwithstanding that reply, does the Minister accept that one of the biggest threats to sustainable development in east Africa is the totally unsustainable level of external debt? Does he agree that it is unacceptable that Tanzania spends twice as much on repaying debt as on providing access to clean water? Does he also agree that it is unacceptable that Uganda is forced to spend $17 per person on debt, while it can still afford to pay only $3 per person on health?

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure hon. Members that at the spring meeting in April of the International Monetary Fund and the World bank, the British Government will be at the forefront in pushing for a comprehensive solution to the debt crisis aimed at restoring debt stock and debt servicing to sustainable levels by 2000, and financed from new and additional resources from within multilateral institutions, including the World bank and the sale of IMF gold stocks?

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

The hon. Lady will be aware that the United Kingdom is leading the way in the progress that is being made to reduce aid debt. Indeed, we have led the last two series of negotiations and we will continue to convert debt into aid, as we have done over the past few years.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash , Stafford

Will my right hon. Friend note the early-day motion in my name, as chairman of the all-party east Africa committee, which is designed to come forward with proposals—backed by President Museveni— to reduce debt and interest on debt, having regard to the opening of the books of account of Uganda? Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have had meetings with Baroness Chalker of Wallasey and with the economic section of the Treasury? Is he aware that the Government are making efforts to exert pressure on the countries that are corrupt? The Government are ensuring that we achieve a degree of reduction of debt, where it can be justified, and a reduction in the necessity for aid—which otherwise just goes back into the reduction of debt.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

I will certainly look at that early-day motion. I shall discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend Baroness Chalker. As I have said, the United Kingdom is leading the way in the process of reducing debt and turning debt into aid.