HC Deb 16 September 2004 vol 424 cc1711-2WS
Mr. Bercow

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to promote economic development in Basrah. [188345]

Hilary Benn

Iraq's economic growth will depend not only on extensive reconstruction to make good the dilapidation of infrastructure under Saddam-Hussein, but also on wide-ranging economic reforms to promote private sector growth. We are encouraging the Iraqi Interim Government to agree an IMF programme, and debt reduction through the Paris Club.

The international community pledged over US$32 billion for reconstruction at the Madrid Donors' Conference in October 2003. The UK and the US are also leading the G7 in pushing for generous relief of Iraq's debt. Iraq's oil revenues, currently estimated at over $20 billion per year (and with the capacity to rise substantially in the future) will, of course, be a major source of finance for growth. The Interim Government have asked for help with public administration and economic policy reform and DFID is helping with both. The aim is to strengthen planning and budgeting and to plan economic reforms that will help all of Iraq, but particularly the poorer areas such as Basra.

In southern Iraq, DFID has funded an Emergency Infrastructure Programme that has helped to stabilise and improve infrastructure. We are starting to implement a £20.5 million project for Capacity Building for Southern Iraq Governorates (including Basra). The project will focus on strengthening planning and budgeting in the governorates so they are better able to support to the local economy and community. We are also funding a £16.5 million programme to promote employment and sustain infrastructure.

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