Evidence Session on world poverty
Progress on the G8 debt relief and aid deal
International Development Select Committee
Since headlines on the 8th July when G8 leaders announced a $28 .8 billion ($50 billion) aid package and debt of the 18 poorest African nations cancelled, what progress has been achieved? Yesterday’s ID select committee at which the Secretary of State for International Development gave evidence sheds a few clues.
Rt. Hon Hilary Benn was quick to express immediately the advantages and his own firm belief in the sustainability of 100% debt relief for those countries meeting the HIPIC conditions and the $48 billion aid, in the conference on the outcomes of the Gleneagles summit, Tuesday 19th July.
Labour have proposed a new International Finance Facility designed to frontload aid to poor countries. Unfortunately the Government’s rhetoric has exceeded its ability to generate a widespread consensus on the proposal, and The Secretary of State was made to tackle a number of probing questions from all parties. At one point, Malcolm Bruce MP even demanded whether the debt relief in question was not simply a ‘reward for irresponsibility’, a theory he has nicknamed the ‘Botswana example’. However, Rt Hon. Hilary Benn assured all those present that the aid and relief would only be given to those HIPIC countries that showed signs of progress to merit them. Moreover, he was also eager to quash the suggestion of ‘phantom aid’, claiming that he himself had seen evidence of the benefits, in the form of a much needed new school, on a visit to one of the HIPIC countries.
The Secretary of State also answered questions on HIV/AIDS, a subject raised by Jeremy Young, and a priority area of the Conservatives. He confirmed that ARA’s and treatment were among the Government’s priorities, although was slightly reluctant to outline an exact plan, or figures for HIV sufferer help when asked.
Other sensitive subjects raised were the provision of clean water, roads and the importance of infrastructure to allow these countries to develop. The Secretary of State was questioned on the real importance of infrastructure as a priority, and agreed that a reasonable balance needs to be established between private and public contribution.
This is a cross party issue which needs, and is indeed receiving cross party support. In response to the PM’s address to the House on the outcome of the G8 summit, Michael Howard said:
I congratulate the Prime Minister on what he has achieved…these are people who share our planet with us. We have a moral as well as a practical imperative to help them
(read more here)
Overall, if there was any progress made, it was to agree that clearly set out plans of action were needed, and would soon be formed.