Hon. E. J. Benson (Minister of Finance):
Mr. Speaker I would like to take this opportunity to report to the house very briefly on the international meetings which I attended recently.
The first of these was the annual meeting of commonwealth finance ministers held in London on September 25 and 26. It provided an occasion for an exchange of views within the Commonwealth on financial and economic questions of general interest. There was a general exchange of views on the world economic situation, including in particular matters of special interest to members of the sterling area and to the less developed Commonwealth countries.
The meeting was encouraged by the favourable prospects reported by the chancellor of the exchequer for a strengthening of the British balance of payments in the months ahead. The meeting also noted with satisfaction the arrangements concluded between overseas sterling area countries and Britain in connection with the facilities recently announced by the Bank for International Settlements. Under these arrangements $2 billion will be made available to Britain by the central banks of 12 countries, including Canada, to enhance the stability of sterling and of the international monetary situation. We also reviewed trends in development assistance. In this connection the meeting recognized the urgency and importance of the proposed replenishment of the resources of the International Development Association.
The matter of I.D.A. replenishment was also of special concern at the annual meetings of the boards of governors of the World Bank and the monetary fund which I attended last week in Washington. The I.D.A. is of great importance to developing countries which for balance of payments reasons are unable to finance all their capital requirements on terms provided by the World Bank. The
Canadian government has in the past actively supported early replenishment at a substantially higher level. At the recent meeting I reiterated that prompt completion of the necessary agreement for replenishment is essential if the World Bank group is to continue to play its full role in all parts of the underdeveloped world. As hon. members will be aware, the government has placed an estimates item before the house which would authorize the Canadian contribution to the proposed replenishment exercise.
This was the first annual meeting which Mr. McNamara attended in his new role as president of the World Bank. There is no doubt in my mind that he will provide the bank with vigorous and imaginative leadership. This is already reflected in the action he has taken with a view to expanding the resources and the scope of activities of the World Bank.
Mr. Speaker, I should like to use this opportunity to reply to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition on October 1 in connection with my statement at the annual meeting of the I.M.F./I.B.R.D. board of governors.
I should make it clear first of all that this statement did not enunciate any new policies for the Canadian aid program. Speaking on behalf of the government of Canada I endorsed Mr. McNamara's plans and intentions for the World Bank which among other matters included three specific suggestions to deal with the problem of population growth in underdeveloped countries. These were as follows:
First: To let the developing nations know the extent to which rapid population growth slows down their potential development, and that, in consequence, the optimum employment of the world's scarce development funds requires attention to this problem.
Second: To seek opportunities to finance facilities required by our member countries to carry out family planning programs.
Third: To join with others in programs of research to determine the most effective methods of family planning and of national administration of population control programs.
With these three proposals for immediate action, I hope we may contribute to the success of the U.N. system which is already working in this field, and to the well-being of the developing nations.
October 7, 1968
Report on International Meetings
[DOT] (2:40 p.m.)
This quotation from Mr. McNamara's speech at the annual meeting describes in full the proposed program of the bank in the field of population control. It should therefore be apparent that he did not envisage giving first preference for World Bank loans to countries which are willing to institute programs of population control. Further, in endorsing the course of action proposed by Mr. McNamara I was addressing myself exclusively to the activities of the World Bank and not those coming under Canada's bilateral aid program.
In contrast with last year's annual meeting in Rio de Janeiro, which focused heavily on developments in the I.M.F., this year's annual meeting was more directed to the World Bank group. The three outstanding issues in the I.M.F. on which most attention was focused were the status of the special drawing rights proposal, the progress made on last year's resolution calling for a possible I.M.F. and I.B.R.D. role in the stabilization of primary commodity prices, and gold.
On the first of these, the S.D.R. proposal, progress has been made since last year. It is now hoped that the I.M.F. will be in a position, if this is deemed desirable, to make an initial distribution of special drawing rights some time in 1969. To enable Canada to play its role in the I.M.F. this house will be asked at an early date to give its attention to a rather complex bill to amend the Bretton Woods Agreements Act.
On the commodity pricing question, the governors had before them the first part of a joint I.M.F./I.B.R.D. study providing a useful analysis of the problem. It was agreed that this study would be completed and that specific policy recommendations would be put forward by June 30 of next year.
As to gold, representatives of the countries, most directly concerned, including Canada, met during the week. At the conclusion of the meetings an agreed statement was issued. The relevant parts of the statement are as follows:
The governors unanimously agreed on a common position based on the Washington declaration ot March 17, 1968, regarding the disposal of newly mined gold. It has, however, not proved possible to reach agreement with South Africa at this meeting.
Subtopic: REPORT BY MINISTER ON INTERNATIONAL MEETINGS