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Aid (United Nations Target)

Volume 887: debated on Monday 24 February 1975

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asked the Minister of Overseas Development when Her Majesty's Government expects to achieve the UN target for aid of 0·7 per cent. of gross domestic product calculated on the assumptions about the growth in the national economy set out in Command Paper No. 5879.

The United Nations target relates to gross national product in cash terms. The White Paper on Public Expenditure to 1978–79 gives figures at constant prices related to gross domestic product. The problem is essentially one of forecasting GNP, which is not possible. But it is clear that we are some distance away from achieving the 0·7 per cent. target. We stand only at the halfway mark.

Does the Minister agree that the crudest of calculations and projections in Command Paper 5879 are not encouraging? Is she aware, looking at those figures, that it appears that by 1978–79 this country will be giving more net aid per capita to the wealthy countries of Western Europe than to the under-developed countries of Africa and Asia? Is not this an impossibly absurd position for a Socialist Government?

I agree that we have a long way to go to reach the 0·7 per cent. target. However, I assure my hon. Friend that not one whit of my aid programme will go to the wealthy countries in Europe. I think my hon. Friend has in mind matters which are not my concern. As he will have seen from the White Paper, there will be a considerable increase in the aid programme in the years ahead. This problem always arises when calculating aid as a proportion of GNP. This is one of the unfortunate aspects of the target. The aid may go up, but if the GNP does not rise higher, it affects the percentage. It is a very odd calculation.

With regard to the countries of south Asia referred to by the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Lady in answers to previous questions, when does the Minister expect to make the new arrangements in those countries, to which she is looking forward?

We finally succeded in obtaining Community agreements in July 1974 on the principle of aid to non-associated countries, which bears on the matter raised. I now seek to achieve a hard financial programme. I do not know whether I shall succeed in achieving that, but that is my objective. We shall see.