Latest Developments, June 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Change of plans
Xinhua reports that France has decided to delay its troop withdrawal from Mali until after the July/August presidential election:

“Instead of the 2,000 troops initially intended to stay in Mali until July, the ‘Serval’ force has decided to keep 3,500 soldiers until the end of the presidential election, according to a military source.

Two thousand of the 5,000 troops that were in Mali have returned to their bases in France.” [Translated from the French.]

Buyers and sellers
Inter Press Service reports on new land-grab data detailing who is buying and who is selling around the world:

“The U.S., Malaysia, United Arab Emirates and the UK are top foreign investors not only in Africa but in other countries, according to the [International Land Coalition]’s new Land Matrix Global Observatory. The Land Matrix is a website that provides the locations and details of nearly 1,000 land transactions all over the world.
The largest transnational land deals are in South Sudan and Papua New Guinea. The Land Matrix lists the individual land deals including the companies involved, the size of the acquisition and intended use. In Papua New Guinea, many of the land deals appear to be for palm oil production.”

Emerging bubble
The Financial Times reports that the value of “emerging market” currencies, stocks and bonds is plunging as foreign investors unload newly undesirable assets:

“The South African rand and the Brazilian real touched four-year lows against the US dollar on Tuesday, and the Indian rupee fell to a record low. Even relatively robust countries like the Philippines and Mexico – long favourites of investors – have been hit by a spate of selling. Some central banks have begun to intervene to stem the currency slides.

Both international and local currency emerging market bonds have been pummelled, sending borrowing costs higher.

Benoit Anne, a senior strategist at Société Générale, said central bank money had arguably inflated a bubble in emerging markets, which was now unravelling as investors priced in a change in Fed policy. ‘This will not be a short-lived sell-off,’ he predicted.”

US tax havens
The Financial Times also reports that a single-storey building in the US state of Delaware “serves as the registered address for 278,000 companies”:

“But Delaware – along with other states such as Nevada and Wyoming that have similar rules – also houses a plethora of shell companies, in some cases which can facilitate illicit activity ranging from tax evasion to money laundering to healthcare fraud. For these companies, the attraction of Delaware is the ease with which companies and partnerships can set up shop there and the fact that not too many questions are asked.
This has led to calls from transparency activists for more information on the structure of ownership of entities registered not just in Delaware but around the world, to make it harder for criminals to cover their tracks.”

Global minimum wage
The London School of Economics’ Jason Hickel calls for changes to the current international system in which “capital has been globalised while the rules that protect people from it have not”:

“If we’re going to have a global labour market, it stands to reason that we need a global system of labour standards, something that will put a floor on the race to the bottom and guarantee a baseline level of human fairness. The single most important component of such a system would be a global minimum wage.

A global minimum wage would go a lot further than the ‘fair trade’ fad that has become popular among many Western consumers. Every time I walk into a store and see items labeled fair trade, I’m always struck by what their presence implies: that the rest of the ‘normal’ products are unfair. We shouldn’t be presented with a choice between fair trade goods and oppression goods – oppression goods shouldn’t exist in the first place. When we buy the things that we need to sustain and enjoy our lives, we should be able to be confident that we are not colluding in the exploitation of other human beings who toil in near-slavery conditions.”

New scramble
The Guardian’s George Monbiot argues that the upcoming G8 summit, much like the 1884 Conference of Berlin, uses humanitarian language to conceal plans for grabbing African land and resources:

“Strangely missing from New Alliance [for Food Security and Nutrition] agreements is any commitment on the part of G8 nations to change their own domestic policies. These could have included farm subsidies in Europe and the US, which undermine the markets for African produce; or biofuel quotas, which promote world hunger by turning food into fuel. Any constraints on the behaviour of corporate investors in Africa (such as the Committee on World Food Security’s guidelines on land tenure) remain voluntary, while the constraints on host nations become compulsory. As in 1884, powerful nations make the rules and weak ones abide by them: for their own good, of course.”

Austerity girls
In a Q&A with Inter Press Service, UN Women’s John Hendra discusses some of the socio-economic impacts of austerity policies around the world:

“In Europe, female workforce participation has declined, women’s unemployment rate is higher than that of men in many countries, and the gender pay gap has increased.
In developing countries, crisis and austerity have pushed many more women into informal and vulnerable work. Because women tend to be employed on fragile, non-permanent contracts, they are more vulnerable to being laid off during recessions.

Austerity has also undermined progress towards a more equal division of care responsibilities. Cuts in public care and health services have led to a re-privatisation of care work and a return to traditional gender roles.
Austerity pushes the responsibility for, and cost of, social and public goods back onto households, and in effect, onto women.”

History lesson
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei writes that the US is “abusively using government powers” to undermine the privacy of individuals:

“In the Soviet Union before, in China today, and even in the US, officials always think what they do is necessary, and firmly believe they do what is best for the state and the people. But the lesson that people should learn from history is the need to limit state power.

To limit power is to protect society. It is not only about protecting individuals’ rights but making power healthier.”

Latest Developments, May 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Fear of laws
Business Insider reports that US retailers Walmart and Gap are refusing to sign on to legally binding protections for Bangladesh’s garment workers:

“Gap has said it will sign the safety accord only if it’s amended to alleviate liability from the company. Wal-Mart introduced its own safety plan that mandates independent factory safety audits but isn’t legally binding.

But safety agreements that don’t carry any legal weight aren’t usually effective, said Bjorn Claeson, senior policy advisor for the International Labor Rights Forum.
‘What we need brands to do is be accountable for worker safety in Bangladesh,’ he told us in an interview last week. ‘The problem is that brands are not willing to make anything else but voluntary, non-binding commitments to worker rights and health and safety standards. … They are under no obligation to fix the problems, to make the factories safe or to tell workers the dangers they face.’ ”

A bribe by any other name
The CBC reports on Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin’s use of the term “project consultancy cost” to conceal the bribes it routinely paid around the world:

“The documents show that from 2008 until 2011, the company included these ‘consultancy costs’ in 13 projects.
The terms ‘PCC’ or ‘CC’ appear as line items on eight of the projects in Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, Ghana, India and Kazakhstan.

According to various company emails, cheques and other accounting records, the money was routinely calculated as a percentage of the total value of contracts, typically around 10 per cent.”

Rubber barons
A new Global Witness report shows how the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and Germany’s Deutsche Bank are fuelling land grabs by rubber companies in Cambodia and Laos:

“Cambodia and Laos are undergoing a land grabbing crisis that has seen more than 3.7 million hectares of land handed over to companies since 2000, forty percent of which is for rubber plantations.

These investments [by IFC and Deutsche Bank] stand in stark contrast to both institutions’ public commitments on ethics and sustainability, as well as the World Bank’s core mandate to end global poverty”

Museum loot
The New York Times reports that Cambodia is asking US museums and collectors to return Khmer antiquities acquired during the country’s two decades of genocide and civil war in the late 20th Century:

“Hundreds of Cambodian antiquities are in American museums, as well as in the hands of foreign institutions and private collectors. Many were acquired after 1970 and lack paperwork showing how they left Cambodia.

Today, most museums have pledged not to collect items that lack a paper trail dating back to 1970, the year that a United Nations convention aimed at blocking illicit antiquities trafficking was adopted.”

Trade mission
The Canadian government has announced it is pushing for yet another “foreign investment promotion and protection agreement” with a poor country:

“ ‘Our government is committed to increasing trade and diversifying our engagement with fast-growth countries like Ghana,’ said [Canadian foreign minister John] Baird. ‘Ghana is very much a symbol of the new Africa—one in which aid recipients are becoming important trading partners, and political stability allows for economic dynamism.’
He added, ‘Such an agreement, once in effect, will help bolster investment confidence to make the most of the abundant opportunities that exist here, contributing to job creation and economic growth in both countries.’ ”

Policy damage
Michael Scaturro writes in the Atlantic about the “nasty downside” of economic austerity measures, such as healthcare spending cuts, in Greece:

“ ‘Greece is an example of perhaps the worst case of austerity leading to public health disasters,’ [Oxford University’s David] Stuckler explained in a telephone interview.
‘After mosquito spraying programs were cut, we’ve seen a return of malaria, which the country has kept under control for the past four decades. New HIV infections have jumped more than 200 percent,’ he noted.
Malaria returned because municipal governments lacked the funds to spray against mosquitoes. HIV spiked because government needle exchange programs ran out of clean syringes for heroin addicts. By Stuckler’s estimate, the average Greek junkie requires 200 clean needles in a given year.
‘But now they’re only getting three a year each,’ Stuckler said.”

Thoughtless harmonization
The Center of Concern’s Aldo Caliari argues that a review of the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings, which assess countries on the business friendliness of their policies, is “overdue”:

“The success of institutional reforms is strongly conditioned by the indigenous environment where they are implemented, an environment which varies country by country. So it is not thoughtless harmonization but attention to the particular requirements and nuances needed in each country and region which will make reform programs successful. The conceptual flaw Doing Business suffers from is the illusion that a universal numerical ranking can capture the evolution of variables whose significance for development (and even for businesses themselves) are bound to be quite different country to country. This is true whether we are talking about tax rates, licensing requirements, labor protection policies or access to credit.
It would not be so bad if, at least, the reductionist set of indicators Doing Business equates with a good investment climate were unequivocally positive, or neutral, for development and the well-being of the population.
But we cannot assume that.”

Locus of control
Former Norwegian foreign minister Erik Solheim calls for a “new model of partnership” in which conflict-affected and fragile states, rather than donors, determine their own priorities:

“The [New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States] recognizes what the history of peace-building teaches us: national leadership and ownership of agendas are key to achieving visible and sustainable results. As Kosti Manibe Ngai, South Sudan’s finance minister, has put it, ‘Nothing about us without us.’
In many conversations with South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, we have discussed setting out a short list of clear priorities for the new state. But such goals are meaningful only if a fragile state’s partners are ready to accept the lead from a capital like Juba rather than from their own headquarters.

As partners, we must accept this national leadership. After Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake in 2010, the country was dubbed ‘the republic of NGOs.’ Unable to create conditions in which Haitians themselves could take the lead in rebuilding their country, Haiti’s external partners undermined the establishment of a functioning internal governance system.”

Latest Developments, March 26

In the latest news and analysis…

UN peacemaking
Reuters reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recommended a peacekeeping force for Mali as well as the creation of a parallel combat force:

“In a report to the 15-member Security Council, Ban recommended that the African force, known as AFISMA, become a U.N. peacekeeping force of some 11,200 troops and 1,440 police – once major combat ends.
To tackle Islamist extremists directly, Ban recommended that a so-called parallel force be created, which would work in close coordination with the U.N. mission.
Diplomats have said France is likely to provide troops for the smaller parallel force, which could be based in Mali or elsewhere in the West Africa region.
‘Given the anticipated level and nature of the residual threat, there would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali alongside the U.N. mission in order to conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations,’ Ban wrote.
The parallel force would not have a formal U.N. mandate, though it would be operating with the informal blessing of the Security Council. The report did not specify a time limit for the mission.”

Cataract of weaponry
The New York Times reports that the CIA is helping arm Syria’s rebels:

“From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The scale of shipments was very large, according to officials familiar with the pipeline and to an arms-trafficking investigator who assembled data on the cargo planes involved.

These multiple logistics streams throughout the winter formed what one former American official who was briefed on the program called ‘a cataract of weaponry.’ ”

Old habits
Agence France-Presse reports that France sent an additional 300 troops “to ensure the protection of French and foreign citizens” in the Central African Republic as rebels toppled President François Bozizé over the weekend:

“A tactical command post has been set up in the capital Bangui.
There were already 250 French troops stationed in the Central African Republic.
France has a military base in Gabon, home to a reserve of prepositioned forces regularly deployed during regional crises. Reinforcements had already been sent to Bangui in December during the first rebel offensive.” [Translated from the French.]

Big mistake
Agence France-Presse also reports that France has offered “sincere condolences” after a fatal incident in the Central African Republic’s capital where French troops guarding the airport opened fire:

“Two Indian citizens were killed. The injured Indians and Chadians received immediate assistance from French troops who took them to a medical unit, a defense ministry statement said.
In all, five Indians and four Chadians were injured, according to military spokesman Thierry Burkhard. The Indians are civilians who were working for foreign companies in the Central African Republic and the Chadians are police officers, members of the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC), he said.” [Translated from the French.]

Investing in Africa
Reuters reports that new UN data reveals a surprising picture of foreign direct investment in Africa:

“Malaysia was the third biggest investor in Africa in 2011, the latest year for which data is available, behind France and the United States, pushing China and India into fourth and fifth positions.
France and the United States also have the largest historical stock of investments in Africa, with Britain in third place and Malaysia in fourth, followed by South Africa, China and India.”

Unintended consequences
The New York Times reports that back in 2011, the European Union “planted a time bomb” in Cyprus’s banking system that led to this week’s bailout/austerity agreement:

“[Former Cyprus finance minister Kikis Kazamias] was in Brussels as European leaders and the International Monetary Fund engineered a 50 percent write-down of Greek government bonds. This meant that anyone holding these bonds — notably the then-cash-rich banks of the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus — would lose at least half the money they thought they had. Eventual losses came close to 75 percent of the bonds’ face value.

‘We Europeans showed tonight that we reached the right conclusions,’ Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany announced at the time.
For Cypriot banks, particularly Laiki Bank, at the center of the current storm, however, these conclusions foretold a disaster: Altogether, they lost more than four billion euros, a huge amount in a country with a gross domestic product of just 18 billion euros. Laiki, also known as Cyprus Popular Bank, alone took a hit of 2.3 billion euros, according to its 2011 annual report.”

Sovereignty delayed
Jeune Afrique reports that France, which tested chemical weapons in the Algerian Sahara well into the 1970s, has signed a secret agreement to clean up the contaminated area:

“The existence of this facility for testing chemical and biological weapons was first revealed by the French press in October 1997. But, at the time, information highways were less efficient. The news had no effect on Algerian public opinion. In France, it led only to a superficial discussion on the use of chemical weapons. Fifteen years later, the return of B2-Namous in the news is having a far greater impact, stoking interest in an old state secret that neither Paris nor Algiers want to declassify. Algeria, whose ‘restored sovereignty’ long served to legitimize those in power, only recovered all of its territory 16 years after independence. Until 1978, about 6,000 sq km of its Saharan land, in the Beni Ounif region, on the border with Morocco, remained under French military control.”
[Translated from the French.]

Orphan MDG
The Guardian reports on new hope for the “global partnership” of the neglected eighth Millennium Development Goal:

“Devoid of clear targets, MDG8 talks in general terms about an open, rule-based trading and financial system, dealing with debt burdens, providing access to affordable essential medicines, and increasing access to new technologies. Goal eight also mentions fostering links between the public and private sector to drive better development.

Taxation has emerged as a key issue in terms of global partnerships as rich countries have failed to deliver on trade – the Doha trade round that was supposed to have benefited developing countries remains moribund – and development assistance is shrinking because of austerity in the west. The sums at stake are enormous.”

Latest Developments, March 19

In the latest news and analysis…

Saying no
Reuters reports that the Cypriot parliament has totally rejected the terms of a proposed international bailout, with not a single MP voting in favour:

“EU countries said before the vote that they would withhold 10 billion euros ($12.89 billion) in bailout loans unless depositors in Cyprus shared the cost of the rescue, and the European Central Bank has threatened to end emergency lending assistance for teetering Cypriot banks.
But jubilant crowds outside parliament broke into applause, chanting: ‘Cyprus belongs to its people.’

Europe’s demand at the weekend that Cyprus break with previous EU practice and impose a levy on bank accounts sparked outrage among Cypriots and unsettled financial markets.”

Empty chambers
The Peace Research Institute Oslo has released a new paper arguing for the inclusion of ammunition, without which warfare cannot be sustained, in a proposed binding international arms trade treaty as final negotiations get underway at the UN:

“In 2011 the total value of identified international transfers of ammunition was USD 5.6 billion. Just fifteen states accounted for 90 per cent of all these exports. The governments of this handful of states already control almost all the global trade in ammunition through existing laws and regulations concerning export, import and transit. These 15 states are (in alphabetical order): Brazil, China, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. Embrace of an Arms Trade Treaty by just this small number of states would encompass the vast majority of the current trade in ammunition.”

Land racket
Global Witness has released a film in which an undercover investigator poses as a foreign investor to expose the process by which indigenous land is getting bought up by commercial interests in Malaysia’s largest state:

“ ‘The Taib family and their friends have treated Sarawak’s natural resources like a personal piggy bank for decades,’ said [Global Witness’s Tom] Picken. ‘This investigation shows how they are willing to stash this dirty cash in jurisdictions like Singapore, which one lawyer in the film describes as “the new Switzerland”. Until Singapore and other financial service centres stop allowing corrupt politicians and criminals to shield themselves and their loot from justice back home, the likes of [Sarawak’s Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud] will continue to get away with stealing from their own people.’ ”

Illicit association
The Wall Street Journal reports that Argentina’s government has filed charges against a subsidiary of UK banking giant HSBC for facilitating money laundering and tax evasion:

“Ricardo Echegaray, director of federal tax agency Afip, said a six-month investigation uncovered evidence that several companies evaded taxes of 224 million pesos and laundered 392 million pesos through phantom bank accounts at HSBC Bank Argentina SA.
Mr. Echegaray said at a news conference that ‘there was decisive participation’ of HSBC executives in hiding financial information from the authorities.

Executives at the companies targeted in the probe, including HSBC, have been charged with ‘illicit association,’ [an anonymous government source] said.”

Opposing protest
The CBC reports that HudBay Minerals has filed a lawsuit against a First Nation over protests outside a gold, zinc and copper mining project:

“[Mathias Colomb Cree Nation Chief Arlen] Dumas said HudBay and the Manitoba government should have obtained consent from area aboriginals before going ahead with development. The band never surrendered its rights to the land and resources, he said.
Work is well underway on development of the 916-hectare property.
A court hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Wednesday. Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting also wants an injuction against any further protests.”

Not budging
The Lowy Institute for International Policy’s Mike Callaghan argues that the US is harming future prospects of international cooperation by block reforms that would make the International Monetary Fund a bit less Eurocentric:

“It is worrying that one of the arguments against the reforms presented by the US Congressional Research Service is that emerging markets may not be ‘responsible stakeholders’, and increasing their voice ‘could result in the support of economic policies that are less aligned with the preferred policies of advanced economies.’ This is a ‘red rag to a bull’ to the emerging markets.
Commentators may worry about the impact on future US economic leadership, but the rest of the world should be concerned that the US is failing to exercise leadership now in not ratifying the governance reforms. This is undermining the IMF, the G20 and efforts to enhance better international economic cooperation.”

Unfettered industry
Mining Technology reports on the efforts of Canadian civil society groups to change the status quo in which Canada’s overseas mining industry is “not legally regulated or monitored by its own government in any way”:

“According to NGOs, the mining industry has also done some aggressive lobbying against regulation over the years, possibly because of fears it will limit companies’ ability to work in developing countries and contracts will be lost to competitors from countries such as China. However, [Human Rights Watch’s Chris]Albin-Lackey and [MiningWatch Canada’s Jamie] Kneen believe they underestimate the need for the expertise Canadian mining companies offer.
‘The argument…is really quite overblown,’ says Albin-Lackey. ‘To some degree this kind slippery slope argument is genuinely heartfelt from some people in the industry who are sort of suspicious of how far NGO advocates and other advocates actually want to take things, but in reality…there is nothing that we, or anyone else, are calling on the Canadian Government to keep an eye on that Canadian companies don’t already quite vigorously deny being involved with in the first place.’

A New York Times editorial slams the UN for its lack of accountability over the cholera epidemic it caused in Haiti:

“The U.N. said last month that it would not pay financial compensation for the epidemic’s victims, claiming immunity. This is despite overwhelming evidence that the U.N. introduced the disease, which was unknown in Haiti until it suddenly appeared near a base where U.N. peacekeepers had let sewage spill into a river.
Though the U.N. has done much good in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, its handling of cholera is looking like a fiasco. While it insists that it has no legal liability for cholera victims, it must not duck its moral obligations. That means mobilizing doctors and money to save lives now, and making sure the eradication plan gets all the money and support it needs.”

Latest Developments, January 17

In the latest news and analysis…

War behind closed doors
Reporters Without Borders is calling for journalists, both local and foreign, to be granted access to the conflict zone in Mali:

“Forced to comply with military directives that are keeping them far from the areas of operation by preventing them from going beyond the city of Ségou, the international and local media have been calling it a ‘war behind closed doors.’
The French and Malian authorities are preventing journalists from getting within 100 km of the areas where fighting is taking place. It is particularly difficult of find out what is happening in the embattled city of Gao, where phone networks have been down since the start of the week, preventing any contact with local residents, journalists or anyone else.”

Perfect record
The Associated Press reports that the International Criminal Court has launched a formal investigation into war crimes in Mali, thereby maintaining the Hague-based court’s apparently exclusive focus on Africa:

“The Mali probe is the Hague-based court’s eighth investigation — all of them in Africa.
The 10-year-old court also has opened investigations in Libya, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Congo, Central African Republic and Kenya.
Suspects indicted so far include Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. The court also indicted former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, but closed the case when he was killed by rebels who toppled his four-decade regime.”

We the oil & gas companies
The Hill reports that a trio of US senators is contending that a lawsuit by business groups threatens the ability of Congress to make energy policy:

“Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ex-Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), in a court filing Thursday, defend [Securities and Exchange Commission] rules that will force oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.
Their brief in the case notes that oil and business groups have challenged not only the specifics of the rule, but Congress’s power, in the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law, to force the disclosure.”

Rules of the game
In an interview with the Guardian, outgoing Oxfam head Barbara Stocking says she believes the “humanitarian spirit” has changed fundamentally since she got into the development business:

“And I think we’ve shifted in understanding that it’s not just the poor places that need to be changed, but our habits. But it’s hard to get across the message that it’s us lot, who are actually using all the global goods, who need to change. Not poor people.

I think we recognise more that poverty is about power and politics more generally – and that while charity or aid may be necessary, actually the rules of the game have to be changed if anything’s going to happen.”

Cloak of respectability
The World Development Movement’s Miriam Ross makes the case for companies that behave badly overseas to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange:

“Richard Lambert, former director general of [the Confederation of British Industry], wrote in the Financial Times: ‘It never occurred to those of us who helped launch the FTSE 100 index 27 years ago that one day it would be providing a cloak of respectability and lots of passive investors for companies that challenge the canons of corporate governance such as Vedanta…Perhaps it is time for those responsible for the index to rethink its purpose.’
In November, John McDonnell MP made the case in parliament for Vedanta and other ethically contentious mining companies to be strongly regulated by the FCA, including possibly de-listed ‘because of their behaviour in the developing world.’

A listing on the London Stock Exchange gives companies like Vedanta access to vast financial resources, as well as a cloak of legitimacy, however thin. As long as the City of London is home to mining companies that pursue profit at the expense of the lives of people in the countries in which they operate, it will hold part of the responsibility for the crimes they commit.”

Haven for fraud
The Guardian reports on the UK’s support for fraud-facilitating offshore secrecy in places like the British Virgin Islands:

“The BVI’s system of offshore secrecy is underwritten by the UK government, which ultimately controls the behaviour of the Caribbean islands. It is popular among property firms in the City of London, which are allowed by the British government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills to conceal the identities of owners on the UK’s public Land Registry, by putting premises in the name of such BVI vehicles.
More than 1m BVI companies have now been incorporated since the launch of their offshore system in the 1980s, according to the latest figures, and it is the world’s biggest provider of offshore entities.”

Democracy in crisis
The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities’ Slavoj Žižek argues a recent Slovenian court decision is “a symptom of a global tendency towards the limitation of democracy”:

“The idea is that, in a complex economic situation like today’s, the majority of the people are not qualified to decide – they are unaware of the catastrophic consequences that would ensue if their demands were to be met.

What is new today is that, with the financial crisis that began in 2008, this same distrust of democracy – once constrained to the third world or post-communist developing countries – is gaining ground in the developed west itself: what was a decade or two ago patronising advice to others now concerns ourselves.”