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The Zimbabwedevelopment Fund

Volume 413: debated on Wednesday 8 October 1980

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2.59 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government by what criteria it was agreed with the American Government in 1977 (Cmnd. 6919) that a Zimbabwe development fund of between 1,000 and 1,500 million US dollars, on concessionary terms over some five years, would be necessary to restore that country's economy; what minimum sum they now think would be required; how much has been made available from what sources and on what terms; and what prospects the sponsors of the Anglo-American plan now see for making good the serious shortfall in what Zimbabwe had every reason to expect.

My Lords, as the Anglo-American proposals made clear, the size of the suggested Zimbabwe development fund was based on a preliminary assessment and precise quantification of needs was not possible. I cannot answer for the criteria used by the previous Administration in forming this estimate, but expenditure was expected to be spread over a period longer than five years. The proposal for the fund, which was an integral part of the Anglo-American proposals of 1977 for a political settlement, lapsed when they failed.

It is difficult to judge Zimbabwe's overall requirement for the period ahead. Initial pledges of aid by the international community amount to about 400 million dollars from a wide variety of bilateral donors and international agencies. These pledges concentrate on assistance for immediate reconstruction and rehabilitation, and longer term development assistance from existing donors, together with membership of the European Community and World Bank, should increase the figure substantially. There is still a long way to go, but it is premature to judge that overall aid will be inadequate. We are urging all donors to help generously.

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for that full and helpful reply, which seems to show that, while what has so far been promised is still less than adequate, much more progress has been made than might appear. None the less, may I ask my noble friend whether he does not feel that the failure of America to measure up fully to the generous promises that they made in 1977 and the dilatory way in which the European Community has considered the application of Zimbabwe to join the Lomé Convention seem to show a lack of urgency on their part and a failure to appreciate that what was in 1977 a very compelling case for a development fund is an even more compelling one now?

My Lords, I very much hope that the American Government will be able to provide more help to Zimbabwe. I hope, too, that there will be an agreement on Zimbabwe's accession to the Lomé Convention, and I believe that that will be possible.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware of the very great feeling of co-operation and reconciliation that exists today in Zimbabwe—from which I may say I returned only this morning—and also of the need to maintain that feeling by ensuring that there are sufficient funds with which to carry out the essential works of rebuilding the economy and above all of resettling those who are at present under arms, and have nothing to do other than cause trouble throughout the country?

Yes, my Lords; I do not think that one could possibly disagree with the noble Lord in that supplementary question. I think that there will be quite a lot more aid forthcoming from the World Bank and from the European Community, and there is to be a donors' conference at the beginning of next year in Zimbabwe, which we shall do our very best to help.

My Lords, would it not be a mistake to give the impression that to come within the realms of the Lomé Convention should be automatic? Is it not rather wise of the EEC to want to look into it and see what they are doing before deciding on the application?

My Lords, I do not think that that was the problem. The problem was the terms which were offered to Zimbabwe for membership of the Lomé Convention, and in particular there was the question of sugar quotas, which were a difficulty.

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that if the estimate of the need of Zimbabwe was between 1,000 million dollars and 1,500 million dollars three years ago, with inflation that figure must be much larger today? Can the noble Lord tell us how much the British Government are contributing to the immediate emergency fund, and are they prepared to increase that amount when the donors' conference is held next year? Finally, will the noble Lord agree that the future peace and harmony of Zimbabwe may very well be determined over the next five years by the emergency aid that can be collected in order to enable the economy to be put straight in the next few years?

My Lords, I do not think that what is suggested in the first supplementary question of the noble Lord necessarily follows. It depends entirely what the figure of 1,000 million to 1,500 million dollars was based on, and I am afraid that I do not know. Anyway, it was over a very much longer period. Frankly, I am surprised that the noble Lord does not know what Her Majesty's Government have given in aid to Zimbabwe. It was published many months ago, and has been published again since. We have given £75 million, which I suppose is about 200 million dollars, in aid over three years. We have re-scheduled the debt and have written off £22 million of debt, and we are continuing, to the tune of about £6 million a year, to subsidise students. We are doing a very great deal in giving advice on military, broadcasting and civil service matters to the Zimbabwe people. I do not think that that is a bad record.

My Lords, surely this is not just a Zimbabwe question. All over Africa the process of turning over European-established industries to Africanisation has proved to be extraordinarily expensive, and it is proving so in Zimbabwe.

My Lords, frankly I believe that Zimbabwe is a particular case. In this case there has been a successful end to a war, and this has given new hope in the disputes in Southern Africa. I think that it becomes all of us to behave as generously as possible to see that the new country gets a good send-off.

Since the noble Lord says that Zimbabwe is a special case in regard to this issue, and bearing in mind that it should be able to provide an example for the rest of Southern Africa and that it is a country with a very good infrastructure to its economy, can we not shift some of our aid from other African countries, where it is perhaps being used less well, to Zimbabwe, where I am sure they will probably be able to use it better?

My Lords, I think that my noble friend will know that a very great deal of aid from the aid budget is already committed, and it would be totally counter-productive to move it. There are also a great number of other countries in Africa and elsewhere that are deserving of the aid that we give. At the present time we cannot increase our aid budget, and I think that probably the distribution is just about as fair as we can manage.

My Lords, may I return for a brief moment to the Lomé Convention and ask my noble friend whether the Commission now has a clear negotiating mandate which will enable it to take a sympathetic view of Zimbabwe's very considerable need to export beef, tobacco and sugar?

My Lords, the Commission has a clear mandate and is indeed in the process of negotiating with the Zimbabwe Government. I hope that there will be a settlement. I think I should be misleading the House if I were to say that it was as sympathetic as I should have liked it to be.