Examination of Witnesses(Questions 1-19)|
MP, MR TONY
FAINT, CBE AND
TUESDAY 5 NOVEMBER 2002
1. Secretary of State, welcome. This is the
first time that we have met since the Summer Recess and I think
it is fair to say that during the Summer members of the Committee
in different permutations and combinations have been to different
places, including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Malawi and Zambia, looking
at a whole number of different issues. I think it would be fair
to say and to put on the record, and we said it to officials last
week, that almost without exception wherever we went those we
met, whether it be Prime Ministers or Presidents of the countries
concerned and others, all were voluble in their praise for the
DFID officials and what DFID was doing, and, as we said to the
officials last week, though I am not sure they believed us, they
were not on the rack, but I think it was very notable and I think
that is worth putting on the record.
(Clare Short) Can I just say a word on
2. Yes, of course you can.
(Clare Short) We are living in a time when it is sort
of fashionable to knock public officials and say how difficult
it is to reform the public services, but I think the country should
be very proud of the officials who work for the Department for
International Development. Across the world we are seen as leaders
and yet they have also led a lot of change and reform and improved
effectiveness, so I just think the country is entitled to be proud
of them and the UK is the leading-edge player in this area and
we have some very good, high-quality people.
3. And I think that comes through. Now, today's
session, Secretary of State, really is looking at the outcomes
of the Autumn meetings of the IMF and the World Bank which were
held in Washington towards the end of September and you were there
with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with you of course as the
UK Governor of the World Bank. I think the first thing we would
like to ask you about is debt. DFID gave us a memo and on page
5 of that memo,
I would just like quickly to put these questions into context,
where DFID says, "We will continue to emphasise the need
for full financing of the Enhanced HIPC Initiative to provide
genuine debt sustainability for all eligible countries. We will
press for concrete pledges from donors to fill the c. $1bn financing
gap in the HIPC Trust Fund from the G7 and non-Paris Club creditors.
We remain convinced that the rules on topping up HIPC debt relief
at Completion Point need revision. We will also press the Bank
and the Fund for more advice for HIPC countries on more realistic
debt sustainability analysis to ensure that countries exit the
Initiative with a sustainable debt level." So it is a pretty
substantial agenda there and I was just wondering, and John Battle
also has some questions on this, firstly, when do you anticipate
that there will be a general recognition of the need for full
financing of the Enhanced HIPC Initiative and when do you anticipate
that the shortfall in the HIPC Trust Fund is going to be made
(Clare Short) I think with the G8 at
Kananaskis there was agreement that an extra one billion was needed.
At the annual meeting in Washington, I convened a preliminary
meeting, because there is always this tension between the G8 and
the non-G8, to try and get the non-G8 to commit to do their part
if the G8 kept its word so that everyone is on best behaviour
to put in the sort of proportions we had last time to get the
extra one billion. At the meeting in Washington Germany committed,
we committed and Sweden committed. The US made a commitment to
the same proportion that our Chancellor was working very hard
on, or Paul O'Neill did, of $230 million informally and then there
was the further meeting in October which did you go to, Tony?
(Mr Faint) I did not, but I have had
a look at the report of it.
(Clare Short) I think the US are talking of a lower
figure now, so the October meeting, that was then and we were
trying to move things forward and start some pledging so that
others would be put under pressure. Germany made this very important
commitment and we made our commitment. The other big thing was
the EU which, as you all know, has uncommitted funds and getting
them committed in this way is a good way of spending resources
which are due to go through the Commission. There was resistance
at first, as there was last time round, for the EU to make a commitment,
but they have now done so. What happened beyond that at the October
meeting, Tony? It is always like this with these committees because
you are trying to mobilise some momentum and then people come
in behind it.
(Mr Faint) The October meeting definitely did benefit
from the campaign we ran beforehand and the Chairman estimated
that a sum of roughly $850 million had been pledged against the
up to $1 billion that the G8 had reckoned was the financing gap.
There is a little bit of controversy about the financing gap,
and that is the other point you were coming to, because there
is not yet consensus as to whether the extra bilateral efforts
that those countries have made should be additional or should
be included in the calculation on Completion Point debt relief,
so some people say that the gap is about $800m, some people say
it is one billion and some peoplethe Americans even say
that it is only $650 million. That is why they have pledged $150m,
but we do hope that the Americans will increase their pledge over
the next few months.
(Clare Short) And there is on top of that some of
the HIPC countries that are currently considered likely, but might
come forward, like Sudan, which would be wonderful if we can get
the peace process in Sudan again and get the debt relief, but
that is not allowed for and we would need to come back again.
Of course there is Burma sitting out there and Somalia and so
on, but there are some other countries who, if they started to
move forward, and maybe Sudan would be the most hopeful and obviously
Congo which is a bit further forwardare Congo allowed for
in these figures or not?
(Mr Faint) Yes it is.
(Clare Short) Again that is a very large, highly indebted,
poor country with a peace process going on which, if it can be
captured, then debt relief can come in afterwards, so it is only
full financing this time round for the tranche of countries that
are moving forward. In an optimistic scenario we need to come
back again for more.
4. The countries you mentioned are the US, Member
States of the EU and then the EU and I presume Japan contributed
(Mr Faint) Yes, they did.
(Clare Short) Japan has always found debt relief difficult.
It really does because it is troubled by the moral hazard argument,
but never wants to stand out alone. Did they commit in October?
(Ms McMillin) They did, 56 million.
(Clare Short) Yes, $56 million.
5. Before I hand over to John, there are other
kind of wealthy countries in the world that never seem to get
on to the list, or at least if they do, I do not notice. How about
countries like Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Middle Eastern countries,
do they contribute to the UN family in this way or not?
(Clare Short) They are still in the recipients
6. Not Saudi Arabia.
(Clare Short) Well, not of debt relief, but in the
categorisation of countries. Some extraordinary countries are
still seen as developing countries.
(Mr Faint) Saudi Arabia is an IDA, a donor, but I
do not think that Saudi Arabia has made any contributions to the
HIPC Trust Fund.
7. Really this is just a question in parenthesis,
which is that it seems to me that it is always the same countries
who are giving and I just wonder whether there are countries out
there that should be giving that are not giving and which we should
collectively bring more pressure on. Their contribution to the
international community and in part to the international community
is assisting in ways of this kind.
(Clare Short) I have got a list here of the countries
which did pledge. Do you want me quickly to read it? Germany,
100 million, including any EU share; Denmark, 20 million; Iceland,
0.75 millionthese are all dollarsFinland, 6 million
euro, plus whatever the EU share is; the UK, 95 million, which
is plus our EU share; France, up to 70 million. Is that in addition
to the EU share?
(Mr Faint) No, I think it includes the EU.
(Clare Short) Okay. Netherlands, 68 million; Canada,
the same share as last time; the US is now 150 million; Norway,
26 million; Switzerland, 33 millionthese are all dollarsItaly,
60 million; Belgium, 17.7 million; Sweden, 32 million, so Sweden
has put itself up; Spain says it will maintain the share; and
Japan, 56 million.
8. So it is all European countries plus Canada,
the US and Japan.
(Clare Short) Yes.
9. I cannot believe that there are not any other
sufficiently wealthy countries in the world who cannot put their
(Clare Short) This is the wider issue of the categorisation
of countries and getting countries that become wealthier to come
into the international development banks and the international
system of donors. Singapore has just done that and I think that
is the way to approach it, so that of course Saudi Arabia and
the Arab countries have special loan systems.
(Mr Faint) The Arab funds. There are various Arab
(Clare Short) I think the way to look at this systemically
is when countries get to the point that they should move across
and become a donor. Of course the countries about to join the
EU are just moving across that line and that needs to be organised
in a sensible way, but Singapore has moved.
10. We have spoken about the Trust Fund, but
perhaps I could broaden the question a little bit because I think
in some ways there is a sense in which there is a feeling publicly
perhaps that we have had a go at debt and it is time to move on
to fair trade. I think we ought to say that with the debt story
really, yourself and the Chancellor have done a tremendous job
to get the issue championed on the international agenda, leading
that agenda and building up momentum and with a record, as you
put it, for moving things forward and making real commitments.
I think that is a very complimentary story and chimed in well
with those who are asking the Government to do things and it got
a very positive response, but could I focus on the connection
between debt relief and the Millennium Development Goals. In other
words, is it a means of transforming the whole? One of the phrases
the Chairman read out from the memo was about realistic debt sustainability
analysis and I just wondered, if we want to make the assessments
more realistic, how do we make those links with what is actually
going on in the country relating to the Goals and the process
of debt relief? What would you see as the way for perhaps changing
or improving or revising the analysis?
(Clare Short) Well, I think there has been a wonderful,
heart-warming public campaign across the world and very strongly
in the UK on debt relief, but some of the detailed arguments have
been economically muddled. There were even people saying that
unconditional debt relief, for example, which as I keep saying
in the case of Sudan probably would have prolonged the war, that
has moved off, or sometimes people were saying debt relief, not
aid, which is a muddle. You have got to see debt relief as one
part of moving a country and the world forward on the Millennium
Development Goals for our very, very highly indebted, very poor
countries which have such an overhang of debt from the past, often
by corruption, but they are in a position where the best possible
development policies and economic policies can never get them
out of it, so it needs to be written down so that they can adopt
good policy and then grow their economy. Of course with this debt
we are talking about foreign debt and that is highly linked to
trade, clearing of the debt or bringing it down to a sustainable
level that the country can afford, getting back a reputation for
proper management of its debt and, therefore, being able to take
responsible borrowing in order to grow its economy. That is a
crucial part of some of the poorest, tiny, indebted countries
being able to clear a backlog and being given a chance to move
forward, but the countries which are being stars on qualifying
for HIPC, the Ugandas, which was the first, the Mozambiques, the
Rwandas indeed, they still need aid, considerable aid. These are
very poor countries and still need support with institution-building
and they still need better trade access.
11. And they sometimes get it and they sometimes
get additional relief, but sometimes that additional relief is
not counted as additional and it is not included in the Completion
Point in the debt sustainability analysis. I wondered if we were
doing anything in terms of that analysis perhaps to ensure that
additional relief is actually counted as additional so that you
do not get in a country the argument, "Well, they are short-changing
us and we are not getting what we think we should be getting".
(Clare Short) Yes, we had this argument at the Development
Committee annual meeting. The UK moved first and then I think
all the other G7 moved to say, "We go to 100 per cent debt
relief". Actually the Paris Club wrote us all in at 90 odd
and in one sense it sounded better than it was in terms of the
amount, but it was very important symbolically. There is now an
absolutely disgraceful fiddle going on in that when the World
Bank makes the calculations of whether countries are sustainable,
they take into account the extra committed as to whether a country
can go to 100 per cent, so this is an additional, voluntary bit
more generosity and the countries who are not doing it are being
subsidised. It is absolutely wrong that the calculation should
be made in this way and we made a fuss about it and a number of
other countries feel very strongly similarly, so yes, that is
going on, it is outrageous and we made a fuss at the meeting and
thereafter. The US does not agree with us.
(Mr Faint) No, and one or two other countries.
(Clare Short) Who elseJapan?
(Ms McMillin) Japan, yes.
12. The IMF and the World Bank, in their review
of HIPC, said, "There are no reliable estimates of the costs
of scaling up debt relief to achieve the Millennium Development
Goals". I wonder, do you think that debt relief should be
explicitly linked to countries' Millennium Development Goals financing
needs? I think there is a proposal from the HIPC Finance Ministers
at the Autumn meetings, which made sense, for, "The Bretton
Woods institutions to present MDG financing needs in all HIPC
and PRSP-related Board papers". Would you support that in
(Clare Short) Well, I think you cannot look at funding
a country to get to the Millennium Development Goals only through
the prism of debt relief. You have to look at debt relief that
is sustainable enough that the country can then trade and grow
and is not constrained, but then it will need aid and other reform.
You can look at how much debt relief is necessary to release a
country that if it adopts the other policies and gets enough aid,
then it can really drive forward in achieving the Millennium Development
Goals, so clearing debt is a component, but alone cannot deliver
a country to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It needs
other reform and it will need aid.
13. I agree, but are the systems subtle enough
to measure that at the IMF/World Bank end?
(Clare Short) Well, we are back to top-up and sustainability
on debt relief and it was always a pretty mean formula. The Cologne
Formula was more generous to what was on offer before the great
G7 in Birmingham and all the wonderful turnout of campaigners
and then they went on to Cologne. A more generous formula was
agreed at Cologne, but it was still less generous than we were
hoping for at that time, so this question of knowing whether it
is generous enough at Completion Point we have been working on
ever since then, but the extra thing that has kicked in is both
oil prices and commodity prices with oil prices going up and commodity
prices collapsing. Then the formula does not work because, like
the Ugandas, their earnings in foreign countries have gone right
down because coffee prices have fallen, so we need to give countries
more to get back to the original formula and the original formula
was pretty mean. So we need more on debt relief to release countries
enough to do the other things they need to do to move themselves
forward to the Millennium Development Goals, but you cannot do
it on debt relief alone.
(Ms McMillin) We should not forget as well that there
are other countries that are outside HIPC which are not heavily
indebted, but which are poor and they also need help.
(Clare Short) Like Bangladesh.
14. In the evidence they gave to us, the aid
agencies who submitted a joint paper,
the main UK development agencies argue that debt relief is the
most efficient and effective form of resource transfer for a number
of reasons. They say it is good economically in terms of being
anti-inflationary and spurring growth, but they also make the
point that it is good because it is de facto budget support.
Where a country has reasonable standards of governance, budget
support, I am sure, is the right way to go, but not all highly
indebted, poor countries have standards of governance which give
me confidence that if you put money into general budget support,
it will be a more effective use of aid and a more effective means
of developing development capacity than putting it into particular
ear-marked schemes. To what extent does the Government believe
that debt relief is the most efficient way of transferring resource
from the rich world to the poor world?
(Clare Short) I think to argue that debt
relief is the most effective is again the same old muddle. Debt
relief is an overhang which stops countries moving forward. It
needs to be cleared, but then they need other things and to pretend
that it is either aid or debt relief is that muddle and it is
to fail to remember that it is foreign currency debt, that it
needs clearing, but that countries still need to have their own
revenues and to spend their domestic revenues well. They need
another package of reforms and to label too much on to what debt
relief can do is unwise. Debt relief is absolutely needed to remove
this overhang and I am proud that the UK helped to shape the poverty
reduction strategy as a way of giving debt relief, so debt relief
has leveraged important reform in the management of public finances
and who public spending is on and that is important too. To say
it is de facto budget support I think is a bit silly. It
is debt relief and debt relief is very important in the way that
I have outlined and that we understand. In your other question
on budget support, the most effective use of aid is backing poor
countries, and it is always effective backing poor countries even
when there is not a reform effort, but it is at its most effective
in generating economic and social development per dollar spend
where you have got a reforming country, you can get it into budget
support and you can get into the systems of the country, then
you can really drive rapid economic advance, more kids at school,
better healthcare and those things which, in turn, generate a
leap forward in development. We are a leading-edge player in moving
towards budget support, but we do not go into rotten systems in
a government. You say, "We are willing to move on budget
support", but then we have to look at fiduciary risk, and
of course what we are saying to countries is, "We'll help
you with your financial management systems", and they have
to be tight and good before we can contemplate budget support.
Now, the beauty of that is that we used to protect our own money
in projects where it was spent. If, in order to protect our money
and our reputation to Parliament and our National Audit Office,
we help countries tying up their own financial management systems,
the prize is that the management of their own revenues is also
improved, so where we can move there, we are leveraging more sustainability
and more institutional reform, but we will not move there where
there is fiduciary risk, though we will use our willingness to
move there which means that a country's desire to be seen to deliver
to their people as opposed to having donors delivering to their
people and them delivering little, to try and leverage the kind
of reform in their central bank, in their finance ministry, in
the management of their own money. So there is always a better
way, but we will never go there where it is risky, but we will
help countries tighten up their systems so that we can move there
and I think that is the right place to be.
15. One area of debt relief is of course the
HIPC Initiative and the other area is the movements on sovereign
bankruptcy and the Communique of the International Monetary and
Financial Committee of the IMF on September 28 called on the Fund
to develop for consideration at its next meeting, "a concrete
proposal for a statutory sovereign debt restructuring mechanism
to be considered by the membership". Could you outline what
you would like to see in that concrete proposal and do you favour
a market-oriented approach or an institutional or arbitration
approach and who do you think should be the arbitrator? This would
clearly be not just for HIPC countries, but what impact do you
think this would have on HIPC countries?
(Clare Short) This is very much a Treasury lead and
a Gordon Brown lead, so I can report to you and answer the questions,
but the reasons for that and the reason why DFID is not a leading
co-player with the Treasury is that this is not so relevant to
very poor countries. It is highly relevant to the East Asian economies
and their kind of crisis, the Argentinian-type crisis where there
is a lot of private sector investment, but if then a crisis starts
flowing out of the country and you get a country into crisis,
and then the IMF and the World Bank are having to come in to resolve
the crisis and the private sector is getting off with a free meal
and not having to play its part in some of the irresponsible investment
it might have engaged in, so the idea for a bankruptcy procedure
is to tie the private sector in to paying some of the price of
some of the unwisdom of its investments which, in turn, led some
of these countries into trouble. So it is a very important proposition,
very complicated in the detail and so on and it really is much
more relevant to moving towards middle-income countries with large
amounts of or fickle private sector investment and then moving
out at the time of crisis than it is to the HIPCs. In some of
the campaign for debt relief there has been a call for a bankruptcy
procedure as though it would be a free lunch, you could write
off all the debt, it would liberate the countries and everything
would be better, but that is not the proposition; it would not
be a free lunch. What it is all designed for is to get the private
sector to pay some of the costs and, therefore, learn to be less
reckless. It is very important, but I think it is not as simple
as it has been presented in some of the debt relief arguments
as a kind of wonderful solution.
(Mr Faint) It is of limited relevance to poor countries
because the private sector role in HIPC countries' debt is very,
very small and almost non-existent, so it is really a middle-income
country issue and I think we do favour the work that the IMF have
been commissioned to do. I do not think that really, as the Secretary
of State says, it is for DFID to lay down government policy on
this, but you would need to discuss that with the Treasury. We
could obtain a note for the Committee on the position, I guess.
(Clare Short) I have a note here, but
it is pretty silly for me to read out something I am not leading
on in policy terms, and I hope I have explained clearly why not,
and if there is any more detail that you want, I would be more
than happy to provide it to you, but you understand what I am
saying about the argument on debt relief, this idea that you could
have a bankruptcy procedure and countries would be clear. If countries
have a reputation for being bankrupt, they might never get any
investment again. I do not think any country would be queueing
up to be declared bankrupt. The Argentinas of this world or what
happened in the East Asian crisis, it is a mechanism to get better
procedures for dealing with those crises than actually chasing
the private sector for an irresponsible investment, but it would
be an enormous reputational question for a country to go bankrupt.
It is not a simple exit from any problem.
16. Secretary of State, I am sure that we would
welcome perhaps a joint paper from DFID and the Treasury to explain
what you would like to see in these concrete proposals. Jubilee
Research of the New Economics Foundation, the successor body to
Jubilee 2000, have been campaigning very strongly on this as being
the second part, if you like, of the campaign.
(Clare Short) I think they are wrong, as they are
wrong on some other things.
17. I hear what you say, Secretary of State,
but clearly it is important for us, as the International Development
Select Committee, to be able to take up the concerns that Jubilee
Research are raising with us in terms of seeing this as a way
of dealing with developing countries which are on the cusp of
the HIPC Initiative, the Nigerias, the Bangladeshes, and whether
they could actually benefit from this and, if in fact this is
a proposal not yet laid out in concrete, whether there are ways
of developing this proposal which is not only for East Asian countries,
but also for those countries which have not come under the wire
of HIPC, as it were, but are just outside. Is there not a way
to mould this proposal to ensure that they also can see some debt
(Clare Short) I do not think so. I am not going to
ask for a paper from my Department in an expertise that we lack.
We are an extremely high-quality department and our expertise
is good, but I am not pretending that we have expertise where
we do not have it. What is proposed in the IMF in reality, because
it is really about tying in the private sector to more of a sense
of responsibility and helping countries through crises, is very
much a Treasury lead. Now, if there are specific proposals from
Jubilee Research, who do make proposals which I think are ill-informed
quite often, and I am an enormous admirer of the campaign, but
it does not mean that all the arguments put by some of the campaigners
are economically useful to developing countries, but if there
are specifics where they think this would help poor countries,
then we will answer that and if you give me their points, we will
come back with an answer, but the real details of where we are
in these very complex negotiations going on in the IMF to try
and bring these procedures forward, I need to get from the Treasury
for you because that is where the work is being done.
18. Can I quickly bolt this on to a further
area which you also may well say is Treasury-led, which is the
decision on special drawing rights where I understand that every
country within the IMF was actually supporting the issue of these
special drawing rights at the February meeting of the Bank, except
the United States. What was the position at the Autumn meeting
and how do you see the situation going forward on this which clearly
again would not be an advantage, I understand, for HIPC countries,
but would actually add to liquidity in many of the developing
countries and many of the accession countries in Eastern Europe?
(Mr Faint) I believe that this proposal for SDRs is
one that has been under discussion for a long time in the IMF
and it actually involves some differential issue of SDR amongst
(Clare Short) It has been around in negotiations and
they have to all be put through all the different countries. It
does not bring any benefits to developing countries. Soros came
up with the proposal for countries to donate the extra SDRs to
developing countries, but it is all going nowhere and the US,
amongst others, does not agree. That is my short memory of it.
(Mr Faint) The US Congress is blocking that, I believe,
at the moment.
19. If I can press you a little further on this,
the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Marshall plan that he issued
in February prior to the Spring meetings of the Bank clearly stated
that SDRs was a way forward, not for the least developed countries,
but for in fact providing aid to those countries outside the HIPC
Initiative and in Eastern Europe particularly.
(Clare Short) No, it did not actually.
1 Ev Back
A Joint Submission to the World Bank and IMF Review of HIPC and
Debt Sustainability, August 2002 (www. cafod.org.uk/policy/debtsustainability20020902.shtml) Back