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My Lords, following the recent elections, officials from the Department for International Development initiated discussions with the new Government of Andhra Pradesh on their priorities and how DfID can best support their efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve the millennium development goals. These discussions will continue over the next few months and are expected to be concluded by the end of the year.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that helpful Answer. Can she give an assurance that DfID will seek to serve the interests of the citizens of Andhra Pradesh? As she will know, there is considerable anxiety about the role of some of the multinational companies involved in these programmes. It would be good to have an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will give a primary purpose to DfID to serve the interests of the local people.
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate will know that the core of our development strategy is to work to eliminate poverty around the world. That is why we continue to work in India, where a quarter of the poorest people in the world live. Of course I can assure the right reverend Prelate that we shall seek to ensure that the Government of Andhra Pradesh consult their citizens on their priorities, which we are seeking to support, and through our own work we shall support civil society.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree with last week's Economist that DfID's practice of direct budget support can improve governance and increase a government's accountability to their own population?
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. Many questions have been raised about the impact of budget support in many countries. We work by agreeing a memorandum of understanding with a country's government, setting out very clearly the monitoring mechanisms that will be put in place and the expectations that the partner government can have of us and that we can have of the partner government.
My Lords, although the newly elected Government of India have still to clarify their position on overseas aid, will the Minister confirm that it is their policy to rely less on development aid and that they would prefer donor countries to relate more with non-governmental organisations? If that is the case, would it not be wise to seek partners in NGOs rather than compromising the position of central or state government?
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is referring to two different things. It is the policy of the Government of India to rely less on development assistance. To that end, they have become a donor country with respect to development aid. But I come back to what I said in response to the right reverend Prelate: a quarter of the poorest people in the world live in India. An important part of what donor countries do is not only to work in partnership with the Government of India but to work in partnership with key states in India. We are working with four to support the priorities of those states to ensure that the developments we are seeing in some parts of India are reflected in other parts as well.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that Her Majesty's Government have been investing in aid for Andhra Pradesh for nearly 20 years? Will she tell us of the progress and the benefits of that aid, and how it has helped in capacity-building in that state?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Chan, will know that over the past two years, we have given some £130 million to Andhra Pradesh. Between 1990 and 2000, the poverty headcount came down from 30 per cent to 22 per cent. The state has, as one of its priorities, the eradication of child labour. In 1991, there were 1.6 million children in child labour. Noble Lords will be pleased to know that between 1990 and 2000, the number of children in primary school rose from 59 per cent to 89 per cent, which means that far fewer children are labourers. Literacy rates have improved from 51 per cent to 68 per cent. So our programmes and those of the World Bank, along with the state's own priorities, are having an impact, but there still remains a great deal to be done.
My Lords, is it not the case that DfID sometimes has a difficulty in reconciling the different views of national governments, state governments and NGOs on the ground? It surely is a reasonable proposition for central governments to say they have priorities which must always be taken into account, while the NGOs feel that they are doing a much better job and have a much better grasp of the individual situation. How do all these issues become reconciled?
My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. Through the significant resources at our disposal, we are seeking to work to change the long-term development possibilities in a country or in a state by influencing an entire sector, be it health or education. NGOs quite often try to work on individual projects which have an immediate impact. We try to ensure that we achieve some kind of balance between those two things. However, the reality is that if a country does not have a health system that functions effectively, although a degree of short-term assistance can be given, long-term sustainability will not happen.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that so often the poverty reduction programmes put in place are undermined by environmental disasters, such as the recent floods in India? Is she satisfied that DfID has a sufficient risk minimisation programme in place?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right. If we look at what is happening around the world, development gains can be undermined by environmental disasters, be they floods or anything else. We do engage in risk assessment; one of the things that we do in areas prone to environmental disaster is to work not just on preparedness but also on prevention mechanisms.
My Lords, does my noble friend recall, before the last election, the tragedies in Gujarat, where many Hindus were killed, and a very much greater number of Muslims were killed in subsequent problems? Recognising the primacy of the role of the Government in India in these matters, then and now, is DfID able to play any part in contributing towards the reduction of the problems in Gujarat, in reducing those tensions and the underlying causes of them?
My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. There was considerable violence in Gujarat in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslim, were killed. We have been working to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. My noble friend is right that we need to work to reduce the issues that caused that rioting. We do that principally through our diplomatic work rather than through our development work, but, as the British Government, we are continuing to work with the Indian Government on these issues.