HC Deb 14 March 1988 vol 129 c855
55. Mr. Robert G. Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further support he proposes to give to Ghana's economic recovery plans.

Mr. Chris Patten

I announced on 26 February a further £20 million of grant-aid to Ghana, which is linked to the continued maintenance of Ghana's economic recovery programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. We have pledged a total of £69 million in support of the programme since it began in 1983.

Mr. Hughes

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he reassure the House that the full effects of that programme will not fall on the poorest groups in Ghana?

Mr. Patten

Yes, we regard that as particularly important. We commend the efforts being made by the Government of Ghana to try to design a programme which takes account of its impact on the poor. I very much hope that the health sector review which we are currently undertaking in Ghana will come up with proposals for work in primary health care, particularly regarding the health of mothers and children, and in family planning, both of which can make a considerable impact on the poor and poor groups.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Has the Minister noted that a number of British clearing banks have this year written off a substantial amount of Third-world debt? I presume that customers in Ghana have had their debts written off as well. Does he accept that in many ways this is a form of overseas aid? If so, would it not be better if the money were directed through decisions taken by the Government rather than by the private banking system?

Mr. Patten

The hon. Gentleman must distinguish between the commercial debt owed by a number of countries and the debt owed to Governments and international financial institutions. In Africa overwhelmingly — the hon. Gentleman referred to it — one is talking about debt owed to Governments and financial institutions. There is, therefore, a particular onus on Governments to do something about that debt, as the Chancellor has made clear. What commercial banks do is a matter for their own judgment.

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