HC Deb 09 February 1978 vol 943 cc663-4W
Mr. Hooley

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the problem of the external indebtedness of developing countries; what is his estimate of the debt of non-oil exporting developing countries; and what proposals will be put forward by Her Majesty's Government at the Trade and Development Board when a meeting is held at ministerial level in March 1978.

Mr. Robert Sheldon

The problems of individual developing countries vary greatly and the level of indebtedness is not in itself an indication of need for assistance. Her Majesty's Government's policy is to consider the debt and the balance of payments problems of developing countries case by case. In recent years, we have played our part, along with other donor and creditor countries, in helping to deal with problems of individual countries in this way.

The latest estimate—published by the World Bank in May 1977—of the aggregate external public debt of 75 non-oil exporting developing countries, out- standing at end of 1976, is US$171.1 billion. This includes debts owed to both official and private creditors, but excludes short-term borrowing from private sources with a maturity of less than one year.

Her Majesty's Government approaches the TDB ministerial meeting in a positive and constructive spirit. At the Paris Conference on International Economic Cooperation last year Her Majesty's Government and other industrialised countries sponsored a $1 billion special action programme of aid to the poorest countries, and put forward comprehensive proposals for the handling of problems of indebtedness. It is Her Majesty's Government's intention that these proposals should be presented to the meeting in March.