Justine Greening reaffirms her stance on funding Argentina – but more to do

The issue of taxpayer-backed World Bank loans to Argentina keeps turning up like a bad penny.

Yesterday at International Development Questions in Parliament, Andrew Rosindell MP asked:

The Secretary of State will be as alarmed as I am that President Kirchner of Argentina is purchasing 24 new fighter bombers at a time that Argentina is going cap in hand to the World Bank, expecting UK taxpayer money to prop up its failing economy. Will Her Majesty’s Government veto any attempt by Argentina to obtain more funds from the World Bank and urge our European allies and the United States to follow us in that veto?

To which the Secretary of State’s response was:

My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that I toughened up our policy in precisely that way several months ago. We do, therefore, take that stance and have been lobbying others…Unlike the Opposition, we do not want to see aid going to countries that do not need it or will misspend it. For example, under Labour Britain gave £83 million to China in 2007-08, the very year that China spent £20 billion hosting the Olympics.

It’s fantastic that the Secretary of State is still committed to stopping funding going to Argentina via the World Bank – credit where it is due. But it would be good to have a little bit more clarity on what exactly are we doing to ensure that no more of UK taxpayers’ money – underwriting World Bank loans – is funding a regime that is not only failing to meet its international obligations but is also openly hostile on the Falklands issue.

The World Bank board endorsed a new country strategy for Argentina on the 9th of September, envisioning over $3 billion in new loans to the country. Amazingly, a country this deep in debt has seen fit to spend approximately $1.6 billion on 24 advanced Saab Gripen fighter-bomber aircrafts, as Mr Rosindell pointed out in Parliament.

We understand that a World Bank vote in December is to decide on new loans to Argentina. It is crucial that the UK government takes a strong position at that vote, so that the result of the vote is a no. The Secretary of State’s response was robust, but we can go further and seek support from other countries, as she alluded to in her response.

It is possible. Indeed, we have done it before – in 2012, the UK, the USA and others succeeded in freezing World Bank lending to Argentina. It will take diplomatic will and effort, but isn’t that what our diplomats are there for: to protect British interests?