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African Governments (Debt Burden)

Volume 77: debated on Monday 15 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with African Governments concerning the impact of their debt burden on the effectiveness of aid programmes.

My discussions wih African Governments about aid policy from time to time take into account, as appropriate, their debt burdens. Debt problems normally feature within the analysis of aid needs and economic policies considered at each World Bank-led consultative group.

The Minister will be aware that at least £42 billion worth of debt affects African countries as a whole. Since we have this useful chance to further the issue, would he now care to say whether and on what scale in the IMF and World Bank meetings there will be pressure from the Chancellor to write off a proportion of that debt, without which there will be no way in which countries such as Ethiopia or Sudan can overcome their debt problem?

I do not believe, and nor does my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the wholesale writing-off of debts is the right answer. However, we have made it clear that, to help countries with balance of payments difficulties, we are willing to consider providing programme aid if they can come to an agreement with the IMF.