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UK government still withholding money from the World Bank

The UK government is still withholding £50 million from the World Bank despite media confusion and misreporting.

Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Department for International Development, announced last week that he would be keeping £50 million of Britain’s contribution due to his concerns over the Bank’s use of economic conditions on loans.

The move was applauded by Christian Aid as a significant first step by the government in accepting the wisdom of its long running campaign to halt conditionalities in the Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

But confusion arose yesterday after media reports that Mr Benn had handed back the money to the Bank.

Christian Aid can clarify that this is not true. Several key players in DFID assured us that their position had not changed and that they were still withholding the money pending a satisfactory outcome to an internal enquiry by the Bank into conditionality policy.

The issue was further muddied by several media commentators, including Dominic Lawson writing in Friday’s Independent, who suggested that we were calling for the UK to withhold funding to the Bank and the Fund because of the tough line of Paul Wolfowitz, the President of the World Bank, on corruption ('We should be applauding the World Bank for its stand on corruption, not berating it' 15 September).

This seems an wilful misunderstanding of the position stated by 3,000 people who marched past the Treasury on Thursday – protesting about economic conditions on aid that force poor countries to liberalise markets and sell off public services.

For the record, Christian Aid supports all serious efforts to tackle corruption by the international community.

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