Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 5 Nov 2008

Vol. 666 No. 1

Priority Questions.

Economic Competitiveness.

Billy Timmins


96 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the role he plays in securing foreign direct investment from the USA; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38566/08]

My Department works closely with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the State agencies under its aegis, in promoting Ireland's economic interests overseas. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I attach the highest priority to using our network of embassies to further the Government's economic objectives, including attracting inward foreign investment.

Our embassy in Washington and consulates in the United States work closely with the IDA in facilitating high level contacts and providing information on the extensive supports available to companies interested in investing in Ireland. The IDA and the Irish Consulate in New York share a premises in Ireland House with other State agencies, thereby ensuring close collaboration in their efforts to attract foreign direct investment.

Every opportunity is used, including high-level visits and bilateral meetings, to raise and advance Ireland's economic interests in the United States. In my recent visit I addressed business leaders at a luncheon in New York, where I met clients of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. I also met individual Irish companies which do business in the United States, and senior figures in the financial services sector.

In all my contacts, I underlined the benefits of investing and doing business in Ireland. I also drew attention to the increase in Irish investment in the United States and the development of the mutually beneficial economic relationship which this implies. My key message was that Ireland is, and remains, an attractive location for high-end, skill-intensive investment.

The Minister will know that approximately 152,000 people are employed directly in foreign companies that invest here and that approximately 300,000 are indirectly so employed. Does he know what percentage of jobs created by foreign direct investment comes from the United States? He may not have the exact figure today but my understanding is that approximately 40% of all jobs created by foreign corporations are in US-based companies. Perhaps the Minister might let me have the figure later.

There is much euphoria in Ireland as a result of the American presidential election. Is the Minister concerned that the new US President may make a policy change as he has intimated, most particularly at the Democratic Convention in Colorado? President-elect Obama stated that he may look at the concept of double-taxing companies that are based abroad. I have concerns that the new US Administration may seek to put an additional charge on companies that invest abroad and that this might have major implications for Ireland.

It is very important that the Minister give me his view and that he outline what steps, if any, he might take to try to ensure that this very important economic sector does not come under threat.

American investment in Ireland is very significant and over 100,000 jobs have been created by American companies. The figures are available in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and can be supplied to the Deputy. The key point is that it has been a significant factor, not merely in terms of quantity of investment but in the types of industries that have come in such as life sciences, technologies or internationally traded services. The degree of expertise that has come with that and the mindsets acquired in how to organise human resources and more have been greatly beneficial to us.

As Minister, I work with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to continue to seek ways of encouraging that investment, consolidating existing investments and winning new investment.

Regarding President-elect Obama's position on taxation and the suggestion that the new administration may seek to disincentivise companies moving overseas in terms of deferral tax, subsidiaries and other means, we must take this step by step. We must also be aware that such a policy change would require legislative input and we would obviously engage in making our position known to Congress and to public representatives there.

The reason many multinationals go overseas is to win market share in big trading blocs. American multinationals come to Europe to win market share in Europe. They are in Asia to win market share in China and India. There is, therefore, an interdependency. The system is now a global one and is not that easily disassembled. There is a journey to go yet on this matter and we must be cautious about overreacting. We must certainly be mindful of the situation and will take steps to respond if necessary.

I am satisfied that the Minister is mindful and am glad to know that he will put a block in the first hurdle of President Obama's new policies.

Former President Clinton also intimated a similar policy when he came to office in the early 1990s. Is the Minister familiar with the steps we took, if any, at the time, or how far such a policy evolved during that period?

The Minister will give a brief final reply.

I cannot over-emphasise how important it is that we ensure our economic interest is protected. The Minister might also supply me with figures at a later time in respect of the investment that Irish companies might have in the United States. Perhaps he might also give a similar total figure for the EU.

That is a good question for the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Mary Coughlan.

I know it is probably a little bit outside the Minister's remit but he constantly informs me using his previous experience as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and therefore I believe the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will allow me the latitude.

I was very keen to get that figure when I was Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in order to tell Enterprise Ireland to do some homework regarding how many jobs Irish companies create in the US. The figure now is approximately 80,000 jobs. It is by no means a one-way street. I had the unusual circumstance about a year and a half ago of a US Senator lobbying me to see if a particular company might locate in his jurisdiction. That was an unusual kind of event because it was normally the other way round.

The key point made by Deputy Timmins about lobbying——

I wondered about the previous role——

The core issue here will be what is in the fundamental interest of corporate America, of the multinationals and of the American economy. As I said earlier, it can be argued that if companies become global economic powers in their respective fields this is ultimately beneficial to the American economy. That is ultimately what will inform the policy response in the United States.

International Agreements.

Michael D. Higgins


97 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the proposals for a new institution at United Nations level to deal with international monetary transfers and trade which would report through the Economic and Social Committee to the Secretary General of the UN. [38564/08]

The current global economic crisis presents us with major challenges which require a global response. We are working with our EU partners to contribute to a comprehensive and genuine reform of the global financial system, on the principles of transparency, banking stability, integrity and improved economic governance. In doing so, it is important to maintain a spirit of co-operation and openness.

Following discussions with President Sarkozy, the European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, and US President George Bush, a number of international meetings was agreed. The US will host the first of these in Washington DC on 15 November, with the participation of the G20. The EU will be represented by the Presidency and by President Barroso. The European Central Bank will also be present.

As part of the process, the workings of the existing global institutions, in particular, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Bank, will be examined. Given the inevitable diversity of views, it is probably too early to take definitive positions on any issue at this time. However, we will continue to work with our partners in the European Union to define a Common Position and to safeguard the leading role the EU has so far developed. The French Presidency has convened a summit in Brussels this Friday with a view to developing a common EU position.

On 20 October, the President of the United Nations General Assembly proposed the establishment of a task force to consider how the United Nations could contribute to addressing the global economic crisis. The first meeting of this task force is scheduled to take place later in November, under the chairmanship of Professor Joseph Stiglitz.

It is very interesting that the reference to the task force under Professor Stiglitz is at the end of the answer.

Before I ask a supplementary question, and lest any other impression be created, I will say that many people around the world have welcomed the election of a US President who believes in multi-lateralism, the role of diplomacy and a greater commitment to the international institutions.

My question concerns a third institution that was originally drafted, voted on and agreed in 1946, at the same time as the World Bank and the IMF. The reason I asked this question is that I do not believe that the Minister must make a choice and I put this to him. If he accepts that the current financial problems are global in nature and predatory hedge funds and virtual financial instruments created havoc and destruction in the United States before spreading globally, he will agree the appropriate place to start is at the level of the United Nations. The UN arrived at a similar point in 1946. Is it the Government's intention to return to that point?

On the meetings to which the Minister refers, the thinking of President Sarkozy is such as not to dislodge the disease that caused the current international currency crisis. An approach generated through the G8 and G20 or even through the former informing the latter amounts to more of the same and does not deal with the virtual cancer caused by predatory funds dislodging investment from the real economy. For these reasons, the appropriate position for the Government is to approach the issues through the United Nations and try to recover a moment rather similar to that of the Bretton Woods institutions.

I am not entirely convinced by the Deputy's argument. It is much to early to rush into a definitive position on the best international mechanism to deal with the present circumstances. My understanding of the historical background of this issue is that the relationship between the International Monetary Fund and United Nations was governed by a broad framework agreement entered into in November 1947. There has been a relationship between these two organisations in so far as the IMF and World Bank are specialised agencies in which the UN Secretary General is involved although they remain autonomous.

While new mechanisms are clearly required, we must be careful not to have a knee-jerk response to the current problem. In the first instance, we must analyse more deeply what has gone wrong. It is only through such analysis that one develops an appropriate international regulatory response. We must avoid duplication and overlap and, above all, ensure coherence in whatever emerges in what is potentially a new order in terms of the organisation and regulation of global financial systems. This is an issue for debate. Reverting to a position in which this matter comes entirely within the UN General Assembly, as the Deputy appears to propose, raises questions regarding the effectiveness of any such system.

My appeal is not so much addressed to the General Assembly. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade emerged as an alternative to what had been agreed already, namely, the International Trade Organisation. It had been envisaged that the new body would report to the Secretary General of the United Nations through the UN Economic and Social Commission. I favour this mechanism on the basis that I am concerned, in the context of the international response, that the source of the fire sweeping through the international institutions is not being identified.

I specifically referred to hedge funds which, by purchasing in a particular manner, can depress the price of shares before purchasing these same shares and, through mergers and acquisitions, destroy companies, jobs and so forth. This is the forest fire which has swept across from the United States. While the Minister need not agree with my analysis, the appropriate starting point for addressing the problem is the UN Economic and Social Commission. The adjustments arising from the Sarkozy suggestions and made through the G8 effectively amount to more of the same.

It is not a correct analysis of the Sarkozy position to state it does not amount to more than the making of adjustments. The French President would not agree with that perspective.

Of course he would not agree with it.

As I stated, these are still early days and I am not convinced by the Deputy's argument on what is the most effective international institution to address the issue. Without doubt, the existing institutions require fundamental reform as they are outdated in terms of membership, composition and so forth. The United Nations also requires significant reform to deal with modern global realities. I hope the G20 summit commencing on 15 November will mark the beginning of a substantive reform of global financial systems. The United Nations Secretary General will attend the meeting.

Human behaviour governs much of what is taking place. While I may be facing into the prevailing wind on this issue, in my view we must analyse the problem, even if we believe we know what are all the issues.

The unregulated market has failed.

Hedge funds are not the only fire to have spread from America. We also have problems arising from the sub-prime mortgage market.

Foreign Conflicts.

Billy Timmins


98 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the steps Ireland can take to assist in the situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38568/08]

The resurgence of fighting in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo is a matter of grave concern, both in terms of its implications for the humanitarian situation and for the stability of the wider Great Lakes region. It has seriously undermined the Goma and Nairobi peace agreements and placed the progress made over the past year in the Great Lakes peace process in grave jeopardy. The position, notwithstanding a fragile ceasefire, remains volatile. I am particularly concerned by reports of widespread attacks on civilians by all sides in the conflict and the plight of the estimated 1.5 million people now displaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 1 million of whom are in North Kivu. News of clashes yesterday is also disturbing.

MONUC, the UN peacekeeping force which, at 17,000 strong, is the UN's largest peacekeeping operation, is mandated to use all means necessary to protect the civilian population. Since 2001, three Irish Defence Forces officers have been deployed with the mission as military liaison officers. MONUC is now seriously over-stretched and UN officials have called for extra troops and air assets. The UN Security Council is fully seized of the matter and has been discussing appropriate responses as a matter of urgency.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has been heavily engaged in discussions in an effort to stabilise the situation. Secretary General Ban's appointment of the former Nigerian President, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, an experienced mediator in regional disputes, as his special envoy to broker a political settlement is a particularly welcome development. The African Union, led by its current chairman, President Kikwete of Tanzania, has also been to the forefront of efforts to restore calm. It is not as yet clear if there will be agreement to hold talks involving the Governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, as urged by the Secretary General.

The EU is the largest humanitarian donor to the Democratic Republic of Congo and has played a key role in supporting peace efforts to date. Ireland fully supports the excellent work of the EU's special representative to the Great Lakes, Roeland van de Geer. Last week, the EU Commissioner for Development, Louis Michel, visited Kinshasa and Kigali to urge the Presidents of both countries to find a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.

I also commend the efforts of my British and French counterparts, David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, who have been engaged in vigorous diplomatic efforts over the past week, met with Presidents Kabila and Kagame during a visit to the Great Lakes last weekend and briefed colleagues in Marseilles on Monday. At present, it does not appear there is likely to be an ESDP mission, with the focus instead being on support for the United Nations.

Ireland is a significant humanitarian donor to the DRC. Already in 2008, Ireland has committed more than €11 million in humanitarian aid funding and our support to the country since 2006 totals more than €31 million. In response to the worsening crisis, the Government has allocated up to €1 million in extra funding for humanitarian relief in North Kivu. In addition, Irish Aid has allocated more than €8 million in funding to Rwanda since 2006. The European Union has announced an additional €4 million in humanitarian aid for North Kivu.

The crisis in DRC will be high on the agenda when I meet with my EU colleagues at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 10 November.

The Fine Gael Party supports any humanitarian or other measures and assistance the European Union or Government can provide. The Minister indicated that MONUC, which has 17,000 troops and costs €1 billion, is the largest UN peacekeeping operation.

I listened to Deputy Michael D. Higgins comments on the failure of the current financial model and the role of the United Nations. Does the Minister agree the current problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo are a classic example of the failure of United Nations peacekeeping? MONUC is a strong, established peacekeeping force which has fallen into disrepute and lost the confidence of local people. Approximately 1 million people have been displaced. It is made up of a number of nationalities. The force has been subjected to investigation. For the first time, an internal disciplinary investigation unit was set up to deal, inter alia, with the sexual exploitation of the local population. I implore the Minister to use his influence at the GAERC meeting to examine the concept of the EU providing peacekeeping support for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We can talk about the African Union using its influence and I notice the British and French diplomats stated, “You better stop the war, or else...”. What is meant by “or else...”? No one likes to see the use of force, but we must have a meaningful peacekeeping presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and regrettably, the force there at present does not supply it.

The force was established in 1999 and there are 17,000 troops from the 20 different countries involved. It is clearly the largest and most expensive UN peacekeeping mission, with a budget exceeding $1 billion, so this is no mean attempt to deal with the problems. It is mandated to use all necessary means to protect civilians from physical attack. It is clearly signalling to the international community that it is overstretched and it has had to reinforce its presence in North Kivu province, cutting back on vital troop presences in other provinces. It fired on CNDP rebels last week in an attempt to halt their advance towards Goma.

From an equipment viewpoint, logistics supports and so on, again there are clear indications it needs additional support. With France holding the EU Presidency, the French Foreign Minister, Mr. Bernard Kouchner, articulated at Monday's meeting the key question in terms of the nature of the response and the obligation to protect citizens in particular situations such as this. He also sent out a clear message that there will be accountability for unacceptable activities by governments as well as armed leaders and so forth, as regards horrendous attacks on civilians.

We will work with both the EU and UN to support regional engagement. The engagement of the regional leaders is the key to stabilisation and ultimately the resolution and the restoration of the Nairobi peace process.

I realise the EU does not have an infinite well of human resources. However, will the Minister acknowledge that Pakistan, with 3,500 troops, cannot secure its own border; India, with 4,300 troops, is in a nuclear stand-off with Pakistan; South Africa, which faces difficulties with refugees coming in from Zimbabwe, is providing 1,000 troops? The EU should have a role. When it was established it had, as a primary goal, the promotion of peace, internally and externally. There is an onus on the EU to supply the security contingent to assist the force that is there at present.

That is a very reasonable proposition and it has neither been ruled in or out. It will require the agreement of all the member states as regards participation, particularly in the context of the battle groups for rapid deployment under a UN mandate. Again, no decision has been taken and it is probably an issue that will surface at the GAERC meeting. We have an open mind with regard to EU engagement along the lines to which I have just referred. Again, one has to be very careful. There is a need to assess the situation to ensure that logistically and from a perspective of feasibility, it would add value to the situation. The Deputy has made a legitimate point.

Middle East Peace Process.

Michael D. Higgins


99 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the latest situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories, specifically with regard to the position in the Gaza strip; if he is in a position to give details regarding proposals to extend the ceasefire for a further six month period beyond its expiration in December 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38565/08]

Ireland, together with its EU partners, is committed to a negotiated and comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, with a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at its core.

Ireland strongly supports the Annapolis process, launched under US auspices in November 2007, aimed at reaching agreement between Israel and the Palestinians by the end of this year. While it is clear now that this deadline will not be met, it is understood that some progress has been made in the discussions, which have been led by out-going Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The priority now must be to ensure that this progress is carefully preserved for immediate resumption of talks once a new administration is in place in Washington, and after the upcoming elections in Israel.

As Deputies will be aware, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni — who succeeded Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as leader of the Kadima Party on 17 September — has been unsuccessful in her efforts to construct a coalition and, on 26 October, she requested President Peres to dissolve the Knesset. It now appears highly likely that a general election will take place early in the new year, perhaps around mid-February.

The Government remains seriously concerned about the humanitarian and security situation in Gaza, which has effectively been isolated since the Hamas takeover in June 2007. We have consistently called for an end to the isolation of the people of Gaza, in particular through the re-opening of crossing points for the movement of people and goods. Despite a ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hamas, in place since 19 June 2008, Israel has continued to maintain the closure of all border crossings for the movement of people, with limited exceptions. Rafah international crossing point, the only border crossing via a country other than Israel, also remains closed since June 2007, with very limited openings.

The Government agrees with those who state that the effective isolation of Gaza constitutes collective punishment and is illegal under international humanitarian law. While Israel argues that essential supplies are being allowed into Gaza, there is no doubt that the population of 1.5 million has been facing unsustainable conditions of daily life. Ireland will continue to work with EU partners to ensure that our concerns about these matters are conveyed to the Israeli Government at every appropriate opportunity.

I deeply regret yesterday's violent incidents which saw the deaths of six Palestinians and the firing by Hamas of numerous rockets. I hope these will not derail the ceasefire, and I fully support the efforts being made by Egypt to have it extended beyond the official expiry date of 18 December.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

More generally, I welcome the improved security situation in the West Bank, and hope that it will result in the urgent lifting of restrictions on access and movement for ordinary Palestinians there, facilitating greater economic activity and growth. However, the continued construction of Israeli settlements remains of serious concern. We have called for decisive action by the Israeli Government to freeze all settlement construction and dismantle outposts, in line with their commitments under the roadmap for peace in the Middle East.

I support and commend efforts being made by Egypt, on behalf of the Arab League, to advance reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Success in these discussions is greatly in the interests of the Palestinian people, and can only help to underpin efforts to secure a lasting peace.

I welcome the Minister's reiteration of the principle of collective punishment, as per his description of what is taking place in Gaza. To save time I shall put some quick questions. If the Government recognises that what is taking place constitutes collective punishment, what measures are being taken to ensure compliance with the human rights conditionalities attached to the EU-Israel agreement? Is it not the case that relationships have been deepened without any cognisance being taken of compliance or breach of compliance with the human rights conditionalities?

With regard to the Minister's reference to the Rafah crossing point, is it not the case that the EU as part of its own negotiations in relation to facilitating the crossing, undertook certain procedures which are missing on the ground? Effectively the Rafah crossing is closed.

With regard to the Minister's reference to the takeover of Gaza by Hamas, is it not the case that the international community urged Palestinians to conduct elections, which led to the election of Hamas? It was singularly unhelpful to have proscribed Hamas in advance. Therefore, constructing proposals for peace in the West Bank or dealing with the situation generally and specifically with Abbas to the exclusion of Hamas is not likely to bring progress.

I take the overall points made by the Deputy. With regard to the EU-Israel agreement, Ireland was one of the strong advocates for a linkage between it and political developments and commitment to a two-state solution. This was not entirely appreciated by the Israeli Government, as was articulated to me by Foreign Minister Livni, when I met her. I was asked why Ireland was so strong among EU states in taking a position on this. A number of other states joined us in that. It is an ongoing issue in the EU. Some member states, in essence, want to separate a policy of a strong trade and economic agreement with Israel from the political process and human rights issues within the Middle East. We have a clear position on that, insisting that there has to be linkage. Almost all the EU states regularly criticise the ongoing settlement within Palestine and so on, which in our view is compounding the difficulties of ultimately reaching a solution.

In the context of the EU-Mediterranean agreement, why allow for a deepening of the relationship without any evidence of compliance on the human rights' side? Why not, for example, stipulate a six-month period in order to monitor compliance and then, at the end of the six months, decide where we stand on the agreement?

I empathise with the Deputy's views, but we make our stance, and continue to do so, within EU meetings and that is where we articulate our position. On the Hamas question, there cannot be an overall political settlement which does not include Gaza. It is, therefore, logical that Hamas must be involved at some point. However, the EU is not ready to negotiate with Hamas until it recognises Israel's legitimate right to exist and renounces the use of violence as a political tactic. There are responsibilities on all sides.

We believe the key enabler in this area is the Egyptian process of developing reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. We support the Egyptian initiative in this regard. That initiative is an important prelude to any overall settlement.

Overseas Development Aid.

John Deasy


100 Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the practical difference the Accra agenda for action will have on Irish aid policies and day to day operations in Ireland’s development aid programme countries. [38570/08]

My colleague, the Minister of State with responsibility for overseas development, Deputy Peter Power, led the Irish delegation to the Accra high level forum on aid effectiveness in Accra, Ghana in September and was able to make a meaningful contribution to the discussions on the Accra agenda for action. The high level forum has been effective in drawing renewed attention to the importance of improving aid delivery and giving value for money, especially at a time of a world economic downturn. As Ireland has been a strong advocate of the principles of aid effectiveness, agreed by both donors and developing countries in the Paris declaration of 2005, the Accra agenda for action will not make a significant difference to the way we currently work.

The context for Accra was a stocktaking of progress on the targets and benchmarks for better delivery of aid agreed in the Paris declaration. These include improved harmonisation of donor interventions; alignment with partner countries' policies; better division of labour among donors; improved transparency and predictability of funding; untying of aid; and mutual accountability for results.

The Accra agenda for action highlights three areas where further progress needs to be made by both partner countries and donors. These are strengthening country ownership over development, building more effective and inclusive partnerships and delivering and accounting for better results on the ground. Ireland is recognised as having made significant progress in all these areas. Our commitment to delivering our aid in ways that build capacity in partner countries, that support their national development policies, strategies and plans and that strengthen their national systems for delivery and accountability is explicit in the White Paper on Irish aid. Our aid is 100% untied and our country programme documents provide indicative funding amounts to our partners for up to five years.

The recent monitoring survey on the Paris declaration undertaken by the development assistance committee of the OECD in preparation for Accra indicated that we are performing above the EU average on most of the indicators agreed in the declaration. We will continue to strengthen our performance over the coming years.

This is an issue that arises again and again. It arose again today when Concern attended the sub-committee on overseas development. With regard to Accra, today's discussion was concerned with the harmonisation of donor activity and cutting down the duplication of bureaucracy. Concern used the examples of Vietnam and Tanzania, where, for example, officials in the health care system spend more time on administration and dealing with donors than on the health care system. The GNP of development countries is being reduced, just as ours is. Therefore, we must have far more efficiency within the Irish aid budget as well as in budgets generally throughout the world. What ongoing efforts does Irish Aid make to ensure there is more efficiency and no unnecessary duplication within our aid budget?

We are in tune with and support the Accra agenda. The Deputy's point is well made. For some time there was a lack of co-ordination between donor countries and we put too much stress on recipient countries in terms of their governmental capacity to absorb and spend aid. Now, different countries and donors take a lead in respect of countries in certain areas, for example, in Uganda in terms of education. Ireland has supported the Government of Uganda strongly on the education agenda, to such an extent that Uganda now provides education for an extra 5 million children who started school over the past decade as a result of the introduction of free primary education.

In Uganda, Ireland has contributed to building better schools, training teachers, revising the curriculum, providing books, training school managers and so on. Our work there is a good illustration of how we dovetail with a national governmental agenda in terms of genuine sustainable reform and improvement of the existing governmental system vis-à-vis education. This is the approach we are consistently endeavouring to pursue with governments.

That is probably a good illustration. I was in north-western Uganda with the sub-committee a few months ago, as was Deputy Michael Higgins. We would probably agree the money is being well spent and distributed properly. Recently, some members of the sub-committee went to Malawi, which is a very poor country. As Malawi is a programme country, it is proper that we fund and give money to it, but how can the Minister be sure of where to focus aid? Vietnam, for example, is a donor-laden country. Should we not focus on the poorest of the poor countries, like Cambodia, as opposed to a country like Vietnam that is not in the same bracket as Malawi and Cambodia?

The preponderance of our aid goes to the poorest of the poor.

Cambodia is much worse off than Vietnam.

The bulk of our aid goes to the poorest, but not all of it. It is a broad spectrum and there are different levels of support, but the preponderance goes to the poorest of the poor, particularly in Africa. We review the situation regularly and search for better value for money, better outcomes and optimal effectiveness in our aid programme. I take on board the points made by the Deputy and will relate them to Irish Aid and the Minister of State.