Latest Developments, March 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Costly loophole
ActionAid has released a report on the potential impacts of UK government plans to open a “huge new tax loophole” by watering down regulations discouraging the use of tax havens.
“This loophole will make it much easier for UK-based global businesses to avoid taxes in the developing countries they operate in, at an estimated cost of £4 billion a year. Some of the poorest countries in the world, with minimal public services, will be losing vital revenues they could be investing in healthcare and education, keeping them more dependent on foreign aid.”

DR Congo’s missing revenues
Voice of America reports that anti-corruption investigators cannot locate $70 million that mining companies say they have paid to the Congolese government, but these corporations may be short-changing the government by a “far greater” amount.
“Mining companies may be hiding some of their income and thus paying less tax than they should. [The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative’s Jeremy] Dumba said he knew of cases where this may have been happening.
He said for example there’s the case of a company that exported 400,000 tons of minerals.  They should have paid 2 percent tax on that, but their tax declaration came to much less, indicating that they hadn’t declared all their income.”

Global poverty numbers
The Brookings Institution’s Laurence Chandy and Homi Kharas argue that the World Bank’s latest poverty figures contain too many discrepancies to be taken “at face value.”
“The World Bank’s global poverty estimates extend over nearly three decades, with its earliest estimates provided for the year 1981. Throughout this period, the global headcount (based on the $1.25 poverty line) has been dominated by three population groups: Sub-Saharan Africa, India and China. These three account for a remarkably constant three-quarters of the world’s poor—a share which has never deviated by more than three percentage points on either side. Yet poverty estimates for each of the three suffer from glaring problems: insufficient survey data, flawed surveys, and faulty PPP conversions, respectively. If we cannot believe the poverty estimates for Sub-Saharan Africa, India and China, then we cannot believe the World Bank’s global estimates, and we must admit that our knowledge of the state of global poverty is glaringly limited.”

The UK’s 44%
British MP Diane Abbott calls for an examination of the “underlying reasons” for the UK’s 44 percent unemployment among young black people, a rate more than double that of their white peers.
“Some people will be antagonised by any discussion of the fact that spiralling unemployment is hitting black people hardest. They may think it a price worth paying for cutting back on public spending. Or they may argue that it doesn’t matter what colour you are. But the more unequal a society, the more unstable it is. And inequality with a racial dimension risks creating a time bomb. The immediate response to last summer’s riots was (quite correctly) a call to restore order. But these figures are not irrelevant. Policymakers cannot afford to ignore black unemployment.”

Françafrique lives
Former French ambassador to Senegal, Jean-Christophe Rufin, writes that the end of France’s neocolonial activities in Africa, promised by Nicolas Sarkozy during his presidential candidacy in 2006, has not materialized.
“French interventionism in Africa has rarely been stronger than during the last five years. Featuring a military rescue for Chad’s Idriss Déby, support for Mauritania’s coup leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, an electoral helping hand for Gabon’s Ali Bongo, armed intervention in Côte d’Ivoire, support for the transition in Guinea, armed operations against Al-Qaeda in Niger, to say nothing of the intervention in Libya, the past five years have been marked by all-out French activism, covert or overt, on the African continent.” (Translated from the French.)

Pacification program
International NGO veteran Rick Arnold argues the new partnership linking the Canadian International Development Agency, World Vision and Barrick Gold in Peru has more to do with pacification than development.
“As [Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations’ Miguel] Palacin is strongly suggesting, World Vision-Canada should focus its efforts on Canada. It should join with other organizations working to bring about needed legislation at home to hold Canadian mining companies responsible for damages done abroad.”

Moral calculus
In a Q&A with the Atlantic, Oxford University’s Nick Bostrom reaches a controversial conclusion in weighing the value of current and future generations.
“Well suppose you have a moral view that counts future people as being worth as much as present people. You might say that fundamentally it doesn’t matter whether someone exists at the current time or at some future time, just as many people think that from a fundamental moral point of view, it doesn’t matter where somebody is spatially—somebody isn’t automatically worth less because you move them to the moon or to Africa or something. A human life is a human life. If you have that moral point of view that future generations matter in proportion to their population numbers, then you get this very stark implication that existential risk mitigation has a much higher utility than pretty much anything else that you could do. There are so many people that could come into existence in the future if humanity survives this critical period of time—we might live for billions of years, our descendants might colonize billions of solar systems, and there could be billions and billions times more people than exist currently. Therefore, even a very small reduction in the probability of realizing this enormous good will tend to outweigh even immense benefits like eliminating poverty or curing malaria, which would be tremendous under ordinary standards.”

Raging against cupcakes
Exasperated by the theme of several International Women’s Day events, the Overseas Development Institute’s Claire Melamed asks when cupcakes became the “international symbol of womankind.”
“Why does this fetishisation of cupcakes make me so annoyed?  Cupcakes are just so twee-ly, coyly, ‘ooh no I really shouldn’t’-ly, pink and fluffily, everything that I think feminism is not.  It’s feminism-lite, feminism as consumption and ‘me time’ (grr), rather than feminism as power and politics and equal pay.”

World Bank track record
Columbia University’s Jeffrey Sachs gives a stinging historical account of the World Bank, as he continues to make his case for becoming its 12th consecutive American, male president.
“From the Bank’s establishment until today, the unwritten rule has been that the US government simply designates each new president: all 11 have been Americans, and not a single one has been an expert in economic development, the Bank’s core responsibility, or had a career in fighting poverty or promoting environmental sustainability. Instead, the US has selected Wall Street bankers and politicians, presumably to ensure that the Bank’s policies are suitably friendly to US commercial and political interests.

For too long, the Bank’s leadership has imposed US concepts that are often utterly inappropriate for the poorest countries and their poorest people.”

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