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South Sudan

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 30 March 2011

2. What support his Department plans to give to development of the infrastructure of South Sudan in 2011-12. (49662)

Our main infrastructure investments in 2011-12 in southern Sudan are expected to be in roads in rural areas, primary and secondary schools, teacher training centres, health care centres and other facilities to reduce insecurity and increase access to basic services.

Here we have a brand new country about to form—it will do so on 9 July—that wants to join the Commonwealth. Its people speak English, and it has great links with the United Kingdom. Should we not shift part of our budget in order to allow this new country to get developing fast?

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. That is why we have focused very specifically on our support for the referendum. We are working very closely with President Mbeki on the issues of the border. We have had many discussions about the very points the hon. Gentleman mentions, most recently when I saw Salva Kiir on my visit just before Christmas, and we will be strongly supporting the new state in a whole series of different ways once it is set up.

What engagement does the Secretary of State have with the African Development Bank and the World Bank on infrastructure development for southern Sudan—which, as he says, is desperately needed—given that the UK is a major contributor to both those organisations? What will their commitment be, and how will the Department for International Development co-ordinate with them?

The Chairman of the departmental Select Committee is absolutely right to identify the crucial role that will be played by both the World Bank and the ADB. I recently had discussions on this very subject with Donald Kaberuka, the head of the ADB, in Addis Ababa at the African Union summit, and we will ensure that strong priority is given to infrastructure development. After all, this is a country with less than 28 km of tarmac roads.

Is the Secretary of State aware that there has recently been a big increase in land purchase by foreign investors in South Sudan? Although foreign investment can, of course, be very beneficial in the right circumstances, land speculation threatens food supplies and price stability not just in South Sudan but globally. What will the Secretary of State do to ensure that people in countries such as South Sudan do not become victims of land grabs by speculators?

The hon. Gentleman rightly recognises one of the challenges for South Sudan. There is an array of challenges, on all of which Britain and the international community will seek to assist Salva Kiir and his new Government. I should make it clear to the hon. Gentleman that that country’s oil revenue gives it the opportunity between now and 2015 to make more progress on all these millennium development goals than any other country on earth. Britain will be playing its full part in trying to bring that about.

At a meeting yesterday, a former Foreign Secretary of Sudan said that when the new Government take over in July the desperate need will be for government advice and training, as well as infrastructure. What plans do my right hon. Friend and his Department have to provide that advice and training?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: supporting democratic and accountable government will be at the heart of what we are trying to do in South Sudan. When I was in Juba to open the new British Government office there before Christmas, I was able to see some direct technical assistance that Britain is giving. As he says, we will need more of that.