HC Deb 26 October 1983 vol 47 cc104-5W
Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of aid goes to the poorest countries; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Raison

There is no internationally agreed list of the poorest countries. Britain has for many years operated on a definition which includes all least developed countries (LLDCs) as defined by the UN plus those other countries with a GNP per head below a level originally set at $200 in 1972—the equivalent of $390 in 1981, the latest year for which figures are available.

I have recently reviewed the use of this definition, and have concluded that it should be changed, essentially for two reasons. The first is that a growing number of LLDCs as defined by the UN now have incomes per head above $390, Botswana—$1010 in 1981—being only the most conspicuous example. The second is that the present listing is vulnerable to distortion by the effects of defining poverty in terms of a comparatively arbitrary absolute income level. For example, Kenya, which has recently achieved the level in question, nevertheless remains a poor country. I have therefore concluded that we will in future statements define "poorest developing countries" as the poorest 50 countries as defined by the World Bank, excluding states with a population under 100,000 and dependencies. We are at the same time changing the definition of British aid for this purpose from the basis of

1978 1979 1980 1981 1982
Former definition (including Kenya in all years) 64 64 62 63 53
New definition 65 72 65 66 58

The 1982 figure is untypically low, and reflects the fact that, as already announced, aid to India in the calendar year 1982 was unusually low because drawings were concentrated in the final three months of the United Kingdom financial year in 1982–83. It is also affected by the substantial drawings in respect of a single major project in Mexico which took place in 1982.