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Pauline Latham on how aid and reform can help Zimbabwe

By Paul Goodman

LATHAM PAULINE Pauline Latham, the MP for Mid-Derbyshire, made a very thorough speech in yesterday's debate on Zimbabwe, setting the scene -

"Since 2000 we have seen the breadbasket of Africa turn into the basket case of Africa. The commercial farming sector and the economy have collapsed, even though Zimbabwe used to export produce all over the world, and to neighbouring countries, as well as feed all its people. It is a tragedy that that situation is not returning at the moment. The lack of food resulted in the spread of chronic poverty, with about 2 million Zimbabweans depending on food aid. At poverty's highest point, more than 80% of the Zimbabwean population were living on less than $1 a day. With cholera, malaria and HIV/AIDS at the worst level of any country in Africa and on the rise, and with Zimbabwe's infrastructure on a sharp decline, the country fell into dictatorial despair."

- Looking at trends in the delivery of aid -

"It is not how much money we spend, but how it is spent, that will make a difference. The Secretary of State has said that a lot since taking office. Between 2004-05 and 2008-09 the balance of DFID bilateral aid to Zimbabwe shifted. At the beginning of the period, most aid was delivered by NGOs, but at the end, most was delivered via multilaterals...Although I recognise the importance of the co-ordination that multilaterals such as the UN offer, I agree with critics who cite inefficiencies at ground level. I hope that as NGOs move back into Zimbabwe, we will see the role of multilaterals change from humanitarian to crisis management to overall strategic country growth. It is not often that I agree with the TUC, but I concede that as Zimbabwe's economy grows and the need for humanitarian relief declines, DFID should look to move away from humanitarian relief and towards core development-oriented interventions."

- And pointing to the indispensability of land reform and political change -

"One of the two most important ways in which DFID can help with the redevelopment of Zimbabwe is helping to fund the land audit. The GNU Finance Minister has allocated $30 million for a future audit, but previous Zimbabwe Government land audit findings have not been released, and I am sceptical that without the international community's involvement, the findings will be unfair. It is not for me to suggest what conditions the international community should impose on funding for the land audit, but as the DFID Minister at the time of the International Development Committee report stated, a land audit would be the first step towards reform, but it cannot be carried with the current President and his cronies blocking international efforts.

Finally, DFID has a role in developing the political system. I understand the view that the inclusive Zimbabwe Government is not yet the partner that we require to sustain a full development relationship. The global political agreement and the resulting GNU are steps in the right direction, but unfortunately, as Tsvangirai pointed out, things have not radically altered, and Mugabe continues to act without consulting other GNU members. As a result, I believe that DFID's strategy on providing technical assistance and policy support will strengthen the political process in Zimbabwe. I hope that the desired outcome of political change will take place, but if the recent Act concerning white-owned businesses is anything to go by, we have some way to go, as we heard from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield and my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon."


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