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8 Nov 2004 : Column 482W—continued

Palestinian Authority

Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of progress in improving financial transparency and accountability within the Palestinian Authority. [195906]

Hilary Benn: Substantial progress has been made since 2002 in improving the transparency and accountability of the Palestinian Authority's (PA) financial management systems. This has largely been driven by the Palestinian Finance Minister with donor encouragement.

A World Bank country financial accountability assessment completed in 2004 endorsed the major improvements made. It also identified key actions needed to further improve the systems. The World Bank public financial management reform trust fund has encouraged further financial reform. Disbursement of funding is conditional on the PA's achievement of agreed benchmarks, including on financial control management, auditing, and procurement.

St. Helena

Tom Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions he has had with representatives of St. Helena on the improvement of transport facilities to and from the island. [195373]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: I have discussed this issue on a number of occasions this year with representatives of St. Helena, including the former Governor and island Councillors. In addition, DFID staff and their counterparts in St. Helena are in daily contact regarding ongoing work to review future options for maintaining access to and from the island after the present ship is withdrawn from service. I expect to consider a full report on this shortly.


Tom Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what payments were made to Turkey in each of the last three years; for what purpose this money was paid; and if he will make a statement. [195585]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: The following table sets out total British Government bilateral aid to Turkey.

Ankara Gas Project2,8452,0691,866
Humanitarian Assistance7
FCO Drugs and Crime Fund648231210

The Ankara Gas Project represents the remaining contractual obligation to the Exports Credit Guarantee Department under the now defunct Aid and Trade Provision scheme (ATP). The project, which converted Ankara to natural gas usage, was completed in 1993; it was undertaken on commercial, but low-interest terms. DFID involvement under ATP was to fund the difference between commercial interest rates and the
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soft rate paid by the Turkish authorities. This was a 20-year arrangement and final interest payments will fall due in 2008.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also provides assistance under its Drugs and Crime Fund to assist local law enforcement agencies to combat the heroin trade in Turkey.

In addition, the UK share of EC aid to Turkey was:
Calendar year£ million

This assistance was mainly targeted at support for Turkey's eventual accession to the EU.


Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the work of his Department in Vietnam; and what relationship his Department has with the Government of Vietnam. [195549]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: The Vietnam Country Assistance Plan sets out the Department's priorities in Vietnam for the next two-three years: to promote the efficient, effective and equitable use of public financial resources; strengthen the Government's efforts to achieve development which benefits all social groups, and improve the accountability of Government to its citizens; to support economic transition from a planned to a market economy; and to promote greater effectiveness of the entire international development effort.

DFID will contribute £20 million in poverty reduction budget support to the Government of Vietnam for the Poverty Reduction Strategy Credit (PRSC 3) in 2004. The PRSC supports a range of reforms across the areas of economic reform, governance and social sectors. DFID continues to support public financial management reform and the findings of a recent public expenditure review indicate concrete progress towards improving public financial management within the Government of Vietnam. To help combat corruption and waste in public resource management, DFID has provided technical training in performance auditing and planning and investment inspection. DFID has also helped to set up links between the National Assembly and UK Parliament, and our support to the National Assembly to strengthen its oversight function has helped increase the accountability of the Government.

Regarding World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession, DFID has provided negotiation skills training to key officials, and supported analytical work to assist the Government understand the various accession options and their possible impacts on the poor. The Government of Vietnam's agreement with the European Union at the Asia/Europe meeting in October is a significant step towards Vietnam's goal of acceding to the WTO in 2005.
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DFID continues to play a strong role in primary education with a new professional competency framework that set standards for a more modern teaching force now being trialled. DFID has also supported work that led to a regulation on minimum quality standards in primary schools nationwide, and has supported districts to implement these standards. DFID support in the northern mountains has led to investment in roads, irrigation, village classrooms, commune health centres, and clean water schemes in six of the poorest provinces in Vietnam. Our continued support in transport means that DFID and World Bank resources are financing roads that link communes to markets in rural Vietnam. Alongside this support we are training people in rural road maintenance and distributing HIV education material in every commune. DFID is co-funding an HIV prevention initiative to distribute condoms to high-risk groups and providing information on HIV prevention and condom use through advertising campaigns on both radio and television.

DFID remains at the forefront of making aid more effective in Vietnam. We have been working in partnership with the Japanese and others to promote the provision of aid through government systems. We are designing three aid instruments which will demonstrate how to channel finance direct to the poor without setting up parallel structures. This includes support for the Government of Vietnam's own poverty reduction targeted programmes that provide finance for schools, health centres, water and sanitation schemes for the poorest communes.

DFID enjoys a very constructive dialogue with the Government of Vietnam on development issues as part of the UK's wider relationship. I have met a number of key Vietnamese Government interlocutors including the Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan in September 2003 who highlighted the value of DFID's assistance and welcomed the devolved presence of DFID staff. I have also met Minister Phuc of Planning and Investment, firstly in April this year, and again during the President of Vietnam's visit to the UK in May. Increasingly, my Department's development assistance to Vietnam is being directed through the Government's own administrative systems supported by actions to strengthen those systems and improve the focus on achieving positive results.

DFID also supports poverty reduction in Vietnam through the European Commission, whose Vietnam programme focuses on human development and economic integration. The EC has committed to spend 78 million Euros (£55 million) in Vietnam in 2004, and is likely to spend 24 million Euros (£17 million) in 2005.

Water Supplies

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his policy is on water utility companies seeking prepayment for water supplies in developing countries. [195918]

Hilary Benn: Very few developing countries have chosen to implement prepayment mechanisms for water (South Africa being a notable exception), though many have done so for electricity and mobile phones. Experience so far indicates that these mechanisms
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require levels of technical sophistication and social sensitivity which can be very hard to achieve in poorest communities. The Department for International Development (DFID) aims to ensure that the poor benefit from improved water and sanitation services, through subsidies for the poorest if required.

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