HC Deb 06 March 2002 vol 381 cc276-7
4. Mr. Peter Duncan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale)

What proportion of the investment of CDC Capital Partners last year was in poor countries. [37318]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short)

All of CDC's investment last year was in developing countries and 73 per cent. in poorer developing countries. CDC also met the investment policy targets in 2001. I remain strongly convinced that the conversion of CDC to a partnership dedicated to mobilising more private sector investment in developing countries is the right way forward and I strongly support the work of Alan Gillespie and his leadership team. This policy was of course fully endorsed by Parliament when the Commonwealth Development Corporation Act 1999 was passed with all-party support, although The Times journalist did not appear to know that the matter had been endorsed by Parliament and therefore put it on his front page.

Mr. Duncan

The Secretary of State will recall that the Opposition said that investment in the poorest countries would decline and it gives us no pleasure to point out that, sadly, that has borne fruit. What will she say to the poor and vulnerable farmers in sub-Saharan Africa who see investment programmes in agriculture cancelled and replaced by investment in shopping malls and mobile telephone companies?

Clare Short

I visit Africa frequently and I have many discussions with poor communities and villages as well as elected Ministers, and they are all anxious to attract inward investment that will bring about the transfer of technology in telecommunications, electricity, sanitation, water and transport that is needed for improved economic performance. The purpose of CDC's restructuring was to encourage more private sector investment of that kind and to show that there can be returns on responsible and beneficial investment in Africa which will attract the private sector. Some agricultural investments with low rates of returns have been sold on to their African managers, and that is the right policy and we intend to continue with it. [Interruption.]

It is incredibly noisy, Mr. Speaker and difficult to hear the questions from the Opposition.

Mr. Speaker

I agree with the right hon. Lady. It is only fair to the Minister and to those asking questions that hon. Members should be silent.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

Despite the Secretary of State's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan), does she not recognise that there is great concern in many countries in southern Africa that the result of the Government's policy, ignoring the warnings of Opposition Members, has been significantly to reduce investment in countries such as Malawi? What has been the specific effect on countries such as Malawi and others in southern Africa?

While we are on the subject of southern Africa, have the right hon. Lady's Department and other parts of the Government any contingency plans in case there has to be a mass evacuation following the Zimbabwean election?

Clare Short

The hon. Gentleman might not have noticed, but my Department is not responsible for any such evacuation. Obviously, the Government have plans for such matters. The hon. Gentleman can take that as read. On this question, as on so many others since his new appointment, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. Africa desperately needs increased investment in electricity and sanitation. Half of humanity has no sanitation, and the lack of clean water causes constant illness, ill health and the death of children. Electricity and telecommunications are needed so that the people can be part of the internet and the knowledge economy. The restructuring of CDC to encourage more of such investment is welcomed by all who take a serious interest in improving investment in Africa.

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