Latest Developments, May 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Thriving havens
The Guardian reports on a new study suggesting the G20’s attempted crackdown on tax havens has “largely failed” so far.
“Despite unprecedented action from political leaders, and a blizzard of bilateral co-operation treaties entered into by offshore centres, deposit data from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) shows bank accounts in tax havens still held $2.7tn (£1.7tn) last year – about the same amount as in 2007.

However, [the study’s authors, Niels Johannesen and Gabriel Zucman] also noted that those withdrawing deposits around the time of co-operation treaties – possible tax evaders – were frequently shifting their wealth to other, similarly secretive, offshore centres where no such equivalent treaty existed.”

With donors like these…
Inter Press Service reports on a new Center for Economic and Policy Research paper that suggests policies being prescribed by the IMF and other donors could send Jamaica’s economy into a downward spiral.
“Jamaica is currently paying more debt interest than any other country, including those in Europe that have been reeling under the near collapse of the euro. In total, the island owes around 18 billion dollars.
‘Pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, implemented under the auspices of the IMF, damaged Jamaica’s recent and current economic prospects,’ the report warns.
‘This policy mix risks perpetuating an unsustainable cycle where public spending cuts lead to low growth, exacerbating the public debt burden and eventually leading to further cuts and even lower growth.’ ”

Climate investment
The Financial Times reports on a new initiative that will ask the world’s 1,000 biggest institutional investors to report on their portfolio’s carbon footprint.
“Julian Poulter, executive director of the [Asset Owners’ Disclosure Project], says these investors manage more than $52tn, ‘and of this less than 2 per cent is invested in low carbon assets, while 50-60 per cent is invested in high carbon assets, whether that’s in energy, transport, agriculture, mining or property’.

‘The AODP is the last piece in the puzzle. The [Carbon Disclosure Project] has done a lot to generate a database of emissions and investors signed up to the [UN] Principles for Responsible Investment are demonstrating their intent to invest sustainably,’ Mr Poulter says. ‘What is missing is the driver that will make asset owners implement better investment practices. It is really important that we have some measurement of what the owners are doing.’ ”

Destroyed tapes
The BBC speaks to former senior CIA official Jose Rodriguez about his decision to destroy video documentation of his agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Three days after the tapes had been shredded, a CIA memorandum, since released under America’s Freedom of Information Act, reported comments by Jose Rodriguez:
‘As Jose said, the heat from destroying [the tapes] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes got into the public domain – he said that out of context they would make us look terrible – it would be devastating to us. All in the room agreed.’
I put this to Rodriguez and he was typically upfront about it.
‘I said that, yes. If you’re waterboarding somebody and they’re naked, of course that was a concern of mine.’

Questionable friends
The Guardian reports on an upcoming parliamentary inquiry into the British government’s “involvement in supporting dubious practices overseas” over the last 40 years.
“The bosses of the world’s biggest multinational defence and oil companies, including BAE Systems and BP, will be asked to account for why hundreds of millions of pounds of government money was used to help military dictators build up their arsenals, and facilitated environmental and human rights abuses across the world.

The inquiry has no legal power to force industry executives or former politicians to provide evidence.”

IP’s uncertain future
Intellectual Property Watch reports that members of the World Intellectual Property Organization are engaged in a struggle to shape the UN agency’s “development orientation.”
On the first day [of WIPO’s Committee on Development and Intellectual Property meeting], an attempt was made again by developing countries to create a permanent agenda item on “IP and development,” which developed countries again resisted on the grounds that it is repetitive with the title of the committee itself. But developing countries’ concern is that broader issues of IP and development do not have a place in a committee that spends most of its time working through specific projects. They have raised this issue for several years.

Medical impartiality
Roehampton University’s Martin Stanton asks how it is that Briton Khalil Dale could have been kidnapped and killed, not in spite of his being a humanitarian worker, but because of it .
“First of all, the US Anti-Terror Law judges the provision of medical aid to ‘terrorists’, or negotiation with ‘terrorists’ to gain access to wounded, starving or destitute civilians, to constitute a major criminal offence. This has actively removed any identifiable ‘neutral’ status for doctors, nurses or allied health professionals in battlefield, conflict or famines zone. You are either for the ‘terrorists’ or against them.

It is alarming indeed to contemplate that troops might open fire on ambulances and hospitals, but it is truly terrifying to observe the covert removal of the basic human right of everyone to receive healthcare, irrespective of their social, religious, financial or political status.”

RIP Poco
Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi argues the Arab Spring marked the end of postcolonialism.
“These uprisings have already moved beyond race and religion, sects and ideologies, pro- or anti-Western. The term ‘West’ is more meaningless today than ever before – it has lost its potency, and with it the notion, and the condition, we had code-named postcoloniality. The East, the West, the Oriental, the colonial, the postcolonial – they are no more. What we are witnessing unfold in what used to be called ‘the Middle East’ (and beyond) marks the end of postcolonial ideological formations – and that is precisely the principal argument informing the way this book discusses and celebrates the Arab Spring. The postcolonial did not overcome the colonial; it exacerbated it by negation. The Arab Spring has overcome them both.”

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