Latest Developments, May 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Off the radar
The BBC reports that the British military has been accused of “unlawful detention and internment” at a base in Afghanistan:

“UK lawyers acting for eight of the men said their clients had been held for up to 14 months without charge.

Phil Shiner, lawyer for eight of the men, said: ‘This is a secret facility that’s been used to unlawfully detain or intern up to 85 Afghans that they’ve kept secret, that Parliament doesn’t know about, that courts previously when they have interrogated issues like detention and internment in Afghanistan have never been told about – completely off the radar.’ ”

Total corruption
The Wall Street Journal reports that a French prosecutor has recommended that the CEO of oil giant Total and the company itself both stand trial on corruption charges:

“Under French law, magistrates can prosecute corporations, not just individuals.

In the mid-2000s, French prosecutors began looking into a series of possibly illegal payments Total made to Iranian officials allegedly to secure contracts. In 2007, a few months after he was appointed chief executive of Total, [CEO Christophe] de Margerie was questioned for 48 hours by French police investigating whether the company paid bribes to win contracts.”

Dear Dave
The Citizen reports that Tanzania’s shadow finance minister, Zitto Kabwe, has written a letter asking British Prime Minister David Cameron to do more to prevent the flow of wealth from poor countries to tax havens:

“ ‘I call on you to demonstrate your leadership at the (G8) Summit by putting in place aggressive sanctions against British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies which continue to provide cover for the siphoning of billions of dollars of our tax revenue,’ says Mr Kabwe in the letter he handed to the UK High Commissioner in Dar es Salaam on Monday.

He said aid by UK and other development partners is dwarfed when the amount that Tanzania loses every year to tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance is taken into account.
‘To a large extent, these tax evasions and avoidance are done by multinational corporations, most of them registered in the United Kingdom. This is a constant challenge for our country – a challenge that undermines the same foundations of accountability that we are striving to strengthen and uphold,’ he says.”

Bribery climbdown
The Financial Times reports that the UK is considering watering down its anti-bribery legislation, a move that would “undermine the government’s promises to clamp down on corruption”:

“The review will focus on so-called ‘facilitation payments’, according to a summary of a meeting held in March by the ‘Star Chamber’, a top-level group charged with cutting red tape across Whitehall.
Such payments involve officials being paid bribes to allow or speed up a service, such as a customs check or border crossing. They are illegal under the Bribery Act, and are the main difference between UK legislation and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

While the act gave the Serious Fraud Office sweeping powers to prosecute bribery anywhere in the world, as long as a company or its employees had a link to the UK, the only prosecutions so far have been of low-level civil servants.”

Involuntary migration
Columbia University’s Saskia Sassen argues that we should not call it migration when land grabs push people “off their land and into poverty”:

“When a foreign government acquires 2.8m hectares of land in Congo and another such tract in Zambia to grow palm for biofuels, it expels faunas and floras, and all other uses of that land. It creates a tabula rasa, where once there were smallholder economies generating livelihoods for local people. No matter how modest those livelihoods may have been, they made the local people productive and enabled them to govern their lives and lands.

In effect, expulsions are being rebranded as migrations, a phenomenon that will not cease anytime soon, given the ongoing search for land for crops, mining and water by governments and firms from a growing number of countries.
The generic term ‘migration’ tends to obscure the fact that our firms and government agencies, and those of our allies, may have contributed to expulsions.”

Financial secrets
Global Witness’s Gavin Hayman reminds readers that money laundering and financial secrecy are not strictly “offshore” activities:

“On the contrary, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other mainstream financial centers are at the heart of the action. Indeed, most of the shell companies implicated in the World Bank study were registered in the US. And British, American, and European banks are routinely reprimanded (but rarely prosecuted) for handling the proceeds of crime. Just last year, it was revealed that HSBC enabled Mexican drug cartels to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through the US financial system.

At this year’s meeting, G-8 leaders should develop an effective action plan that focuses on the causes, rather than the symptoms, of poverty, and that lays the groundwork for a system that protects citizens from the depredations of corruption and bad governance. A genuine commitment to increasing financial transparency would carry huge potential benefits for the world’s poorest people, while fostering more equitable economic growth worldwide.”

Sound and fury
The New York Times asks if the hour-long national security speech US President Barack Obama delivered last week will actually put an end to his administration’s human rights violations:

“For now, officials said, ‘signature strikes’ targeting groups of unidentified armed men presumed to be extremists will continue in the Pakistani tribal areas.
Even as he talked about transparency, he never uttered the word ‘C.I.A.’ or acknowledged he was redefining its role. He made no mention that a drone strike had killed an American teenager in error. While he pledged again to close the Guantánamo prison, he offered little reason to think he might be more successful this time.”

Elder’s warning
In an interview with Le Reporter, former Malian cabinet minister and author of Mali’s national anthem Seydou Badian Kouyaté warns against uncritically welcoming France’s military intervention against the West African country’s Islamist rebels:

“What’s behind all this? And we, naively, our usual trust caused us to raise the French flag in front of our houses, our shops and in the street. We sang the praises of [French President François] Holland. We named our babies the name Hollande, etc.

It’s about gold and oil and other things, with maybe a view to Algeria. That’s what the West wants.” [Translated from the French.]

Latest Developments, January 16

In the latest news and analysis…

“Neocolonialist” war
Le Monde reports that former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing has urged his country to stick to a supporting role for African troops in Mali’s conflict:

“I want to warn against allowing the French action in Mali to turn into a neocolonialist undertaking.

Air strikes in the country’s north and east would hit civilian populations and would replicate the pointless destruction of the war in Afghanistan. They would no doubt have the same political results.” [Translated from the French.]

Give peace a chance
Agence France-Presse reports that the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation has called for a ceasefire in Mali, which is one of the world body’s 57 member states:

“OIC chief Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said the military offensive is ‘premature’ and called for ‘an immediate ceasefire in Mali and for all parties to go back to the negotiations which were led by Burkina Faso’ in December, in a statement.
Ihsanoglu, who ‘expressed his deep concern over the military escalation’ also called for ‘maximum self-restraint from all parties at this critical time in order to reach a peaceful solution to this conflict,’ the statement said.”

Arms fit for a king
Pro Publica reveals “the fullest picture yet” of US arms sales to the Kingdom of Bahrain during the Gulf state’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations:

“The list includes ammunition, combat vehicle parts, communications equipment, Blackhawk helicopters, and an unidentified missile system.

The U.S. has long sold weapons to Bahrain, totaling $1.4 billion since 2000, according to the State Department. The sales didn’t come under scrutiny until security forces killed at least 19 people in the early months of the crackdown in 2011. (Dozens have died since then.)
The administration put a hold on one proposed sale of Humvees and missiles in Fall 2011 following congressional criticism. But Foreign Policy reported that other unspecified equipment was still being sold without any public notification.”

Siemens suit
Reuters reports that a former Siemens employee is suing the German electronics giant, which he says fired him for trying to expose “a kickback scheme” on sales of medical equipment to hospitals in China:

“Siemens agreed to pay $1.6 billion in 2008 to resolve U.S. and German charges that it violated foreign anti-bribery laws through its business in countries that ranged from Argentina and Venezuela to Bangladesh.
As part of that settlement, the company also agreed to implement and maintain a robust program to comply with [the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] and retain an independent consultant to monitor that program and report on its development to the U.S. Justice Department.
Liu said the evidence he uncovered showed that the company intentionally evaded the due diligence policies put in place to comply with its 2008 plea agreement.”

Tax advice
A new report by the European Network on Debt and Development offers suggestions for ways the EU can take on the “acute challenge” of illicit financial flows from poor countries:

“A first step is to implement a robust interpretation of the Financial Action Task Force’s set of recommendations from February 2012. In Europe, the review of the EU’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) in 2013 will be one of the biggest opportunities. The report recommends that this political opportunity is used to:
• Create publically available government registers of the real owners and controllers of companies, trusts and other such legal structures.
• Make all tax evasion a predicate offence of money laundering
• Improve compliance with and enforcement of anti-money laundering rules and introduce credible sanctions.”

Superfood concerns
The Guardian reports that the rapid growth in demand for quinoa on the international market is causing problems in the Andean communities that grow the plant:

“That global demand means less quinoa is being eaten in Bolivia and Peru, the countries of origin, as the price has tripled. There are concerns this could cause malnutrition as producers, who have long relied on the superfood to supplement their meagre diets, would rather sell their entire crop than eat it. The rocketing international price is also creating land disputes.

Bitter battles are being fought over prime quinoa-growing land. Last February dozens of people were hurt when farmers fought with slings and sticks of dynamite over what was once abandoned land.”

Knowable unknowns
OpenOil’s Johnny West asks how much of the abundant literature on Nigeria’s Niger Delta are based on “ground up, not top down” research:

“Forty years on, what we know about the peoples and societies of the Delta is scant at best. Just as Michael Herr said for American grunts Vietnam was not a country but a war, the Niger Delta is not a place and group of people but an issue – a multi-billion dollar headache or a contention in ongoing ideological debates, depending on where you stand.
Now [the Max Planck Institute’s Olumide Abimbola] is setting out to fill that gap by compiling a complete bibliography of ground level research, and then gearing up Nigeria’s social science faculties to start filling the void. But the fact we’ve got this far without this is mind-boggling and begs the question: what do we know about the people of southern Iraq, the Yusuni native Ecuadoreans, or the peoples of West Papua – apart from their relationship to the Black Stuff?”

Non-European thinking
Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi writes that the act of “thinking and acting in terms at once domestic to their immediate geography and yet global in its consequences” is increasingly not just a European prerogative:

“The question is rather the manner in which non-European thinking can reach self-consciousness and evident universality, not at the cost of whatever European philosophers may think of themselves for the world at large, but for the purpose of offering alternative (complementary or contradictory) visions of reality more rooted in the lived experiences of people in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America – counties and climes once under the spell of the thing that calls itself ‘the West’ but happily no more.

Reduced to its own fair share of the humanity at large, and like all other continents and climes, Europe has much to teach the world, but now on a far more leveled and democratic playing field, where its philosophy is European philosophy not ‘Philosophy’, its music European music not ‘Music’, and no infomercial would be necessary to sell its public intellectuals as ‘Public Intellectuals’.”

Latest Developments, September 20

In the latest news and analysis…

GM food alert
The Telegraph reports on a new study suggesting the NK603 type of genetically modified corn sold by agribusiness giant Monsanto may be toxic:

“Although previous safety trials have established that the corn had no adverse effects on animals after 90 days, the trial is thought to be the first to examine its health impact over a longer scale.

After two years, a normal lifespan for rats, between 50 and 80 per cent of all the female rats fed the corn or weedkiller developed at least one large tumour, compared with 30 per cent from a small control group.
Male rats in the treated groups were more likely to develop serious kidney and liver damage.
Dr Michael Antoniou, of King’s College London, who contributed to the project, said: ‘This is the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats. It shows an extraordinary number of tumours developing earlier and more aggressively – particularly in female animals.’ ”

Rendition verdict
The BBC reports that an Italian appeals court has upheld guilty verdicts against 23 Americans accused of kidnapping a terror suspect who was “allegedly flown to Egypt and tortured”:

“The Americans were tried in absentia, in the first trial involving extraordinary rendition, the CIA’s practice of transferring suspects to countries where torture is permitted.
The practice has been condemned by human rights groups as a violation of international agreements.
The group of Americans – 22 of whom were CIA agents and one an Air Force pilot – are believed to be living in the US and are unlikely to serve their sentences.”

Shadow wars
Wired’s Spencer Ackerman writes about the new face of American war, currently on display in Yemen and East Africa:

“Not only are they undeclared wars, they depend on concealing the U.S. role in them. One method of concealment is to use stealthy forces like elite commandos or tools that require a small logistical footprint, like drones. Another method is to use proxy forces to wage them. In Yemen, for instance, the U.S. is training the local forces to fight al-Qaida in its stead, and they come bearing cash and weapons.

With the American public sick of war, those proxies are increasingly crucial.
And it’s not even just counterterrorism. So-called ‘Security Force Assistance’ is a major preoccupation for the U.S. Army in general as its involvement in Afghanistan winds down. When Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked in 2011 what the future of the Army was, he said it involved mentoring foreign partner militaries so the U.S. doesn’t have to intervene during crises, bolstering weak armies. Dempsey, of course, is now America’s top military officer.”

A more insidious kind of corruption
The New Economics Foundation’s James Meadway argues that excessive executive pay – FTSE 100 company heads now make 120 times more than their average employees – has “bled into the public and voluntary spheres”:

“Corruption in the developing countries is well known and well reported. It distorts aid and ruins lives. But there is a more insidious kind of corruption, widespread in the developed world, in which those at the top of society claim greater and greater rewards, justifying it by reference to the demands of the market.”

Western havens
Global Witness’s Stefanie Ostfeld argues that Western countries are doing too little to ensure their banks do not store riches siphoned illegally from poor nations:

“In the United States, it is perfectly legal to incorporate a company without disclosing who actually owns and controls it. More information is needed to obtain a driver’s license than to open an anonymous shell company in most states. This allows corrupt foreign officials, weapons smugglers, tax evaders, and drug traffickers to disguise their identities when accessing a bank. In fact, a study of 150 cases of large-scale corruption showed that American shell companies were used more often than those registered in any other country.”

Human rights double standard
Human Rights Watch accuses British politicians and media of thinking their country is above needing the sorts of human rights mechanisms they prescribe to other nations:

“The critics appear to suggest that the UK’s protection of basic liberties is already sufficient through domestic laws and institutions and that it is somehow inappropriate or insulting to use a similar framework – that of human rights – to consider the treatment of people by the state in the UK, as we might for those living under dictatorships. They also argue that measures to promote human rights, notably the Human Rights Act, benefit the undeserving at the expense of society as a whole, including criminals seeking to evade punishment or foreign terrorists wishing to avoid deportation.”

Corruption double standard
Southern Illinois University’s Mike Koehler thinks it strange that the US is cracking down on foreign bribery cases when it “has legitimized corporate influence” over its own government:

“Yet the U.S. political expenditures discussed above are perfectly legal.  In Citizens United, the Supreme Court stated that such expenditures ‘do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.’
Yet payments made in the foreign context, even payments that pale in magnitude and degree, would be clear crimes under U.S. law because they indeed ‘give rise to corruption and the appearance of corruption.’

Do we reflexively label a ‘foreign official’ who receives ‘things of value’ directly or indirectly from private business interests as corrupt, yet when a U.S. official similarly receives ‘things of value’ directly or indirectly from private business interests we merely say ‘well, no one said our system is perfect’?”

Growth industry
A South African Civil Society Information Service piece by “multidisciplinarian” Glenn Ashton highlights concerns over the lack of controls on the pesticide industry in South Africa, where sales have increased fivefold since 1994:

“The only oversight of the pesticide industry is self-oversight. The industry body AVCASA (the Association of Veterinary and Crop Associations of South Africa) attempts to portray itself as a responsible industry body. However this is fundamentally contradictory as its central aim is to increase sales, which it has excelled at.
AVCASA appears equally frustrated with the states failure to update legislation. Even so AVCASA has not, for instance, enforced any compulsory deposit system on pesticide containers. This remains a major problem as they remain used by the poor for food and water containers.
While the industry maintains some statistics there are huge gaps in the record. There is no record of pesticide sales from 2000 – 2006. Statistical details remain proprietary.”

Latest Developments, September 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Chemical danger
Reuters reports that the UN is warning of growing health and environmental damage caused by the “increasing misuse of chemicals”:

“Poisonings from industrial and agricultural chemicals are among the top five leading causes of death worldwide, contributing to more than a million deaths every year, [the UN Environment Programme] said in a statement of its Global Chemicals Outlook.

Scientists have only assessed the risks of using a fraction of an estimated 140,000 chemicals marketed worldwide, in everything from plastics to pesticides, UNEP said.

The study also said rich nations are failing to recycle electronic waste, such as from old computers or television sets.
‘Estimates suggest that up to 75 per cent of the e-waste generated in Europe and approximately 80 per cent of the e-waste generated in the United States goes unaccounted for,’ it said.”

Behind closed doors
Amnesty International is calling on negotiators of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement to ensure intellectual property provisions “adhere to core principles of transparency and uphold human rights”:

“Specifically, leaked TPP draft text neglects protections for fair use and standard judicial guarantees – such as the presumption of innocence – and includes copyright provisions that could compromise free speech on the internet and access to educational materials.
Moreover, draft TPP provisions related to patents for pharmaceuticals risk stifling the development and production of generic medicines, by strengthening and deepening monopoly protections.”

Charter cities
The Guardian reports that Honduras is about to embark on “one of the world’s most radical neo-liberal economic experiments” by establishing new settlements designed to attract foreign investment:

“The Central American nation hopes the plan for model development zones, which will have their own laws, tax system, judiciary and police, will emulate the economic success of city states such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
But even as the government signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with a group of international investors on Tuesday, opponents tried to lodge a suit at the supreme court for the arrangement to be declared illegal because the ‘state within a state’ risked undermining national laws, sidestepping labour rights, worsening inequality and creating a modern-day enclave that impinged upon the territory of indigenous groups.”

Universal means universal
Save the Children’s Alex Cobham writes about the proposed Framework Convention on Global Health that aims to “ensure health coverage for all”:

“[Researchers] have calculated, for example, that collectively, health inequalities between countries result in around 20 million lives lost each year (i.e. this is the size of the gap between outcomes in high-income and other countries), and that this has held over the last 20 years. This is roughly one third of all deaths over the period…
The fourth of ten points in the post-2015 document, in full, is this:
4. ‘Universal’ as universal: ‘Universal’ must be truly universal. No population should be
excluded because of legal or other status (e.g., undocumented immigrants, stateless people). Similarly, universal should entail 100% population coverage. Less than truly universal coverage as a goal may enable countries to forego the efforts required to ensure coverage for the most difficult-to-reach populations, who are often the most marginalized.

Business-lobby victory
Southern Illinois University’s Mike Koehler, a.k.a. the FCPA Professor, writes that US regulators have adopted a more business-friendly definition of “foreign officials” in new rules pertaining to overseas corporate behaviour:

“By so concluding, not only did the [Securities and Exchange Commission] quietly adopt a [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] reform proposal advanced by the Chamber [of Commerce], but it also contradicted an enforcement theory at issue in several of its prior FCPA actions.

With the SEC’s conclusion in its Section 1504 final rules that a company owned by a foreign government is a company that is at least majority-owned by a foreign government, the SEC will be hard pressed to allege in future FCPA enforcement actions that an entity with less than 50% foreign government ownership or control is an instrumentality of a foreign government and that its employees are ‘foreign officials’ under the FCPA.”

Unhealthy speech
Inspired by two contrasting court decisions on tobacco packaging in Australia and the US, Princeton University’s Peter Singer calls for laws that “level the playing field between individuals and giant corporations”:

“Whether to prohibit cigarettes altogether is another question, because doing so would no doubt create a new revenue source for organized crime. It seems odd, however, to hold that the state may, in principle, prohibit the sale of a product, but may not permit it to be sold only in packs that carry graphic images of the damage it causes to human health.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 100 million people died from smoking in the twentieth century, but smoking will kill up to one billion people in the twenty-first century.”

Inhumane laws
Human Rights Watch’s Ricardo Sandoval-Palos argues that US immigration laws lead to serious rights violations:

“Is it really in the United States’ interest to have policies generating such a level of fear among unauthorized immigrants that sexual violence or other abuses go unreported?
The United States government is entitled to regulate immigration. But it must do so in a fair manner that respects internationally recognized human rights standards—values the U.S. claims to promote and respect.”

Not easy being green
Reuters reports that US-based Herakles Capital has withdrawn its application for membership of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil following complaints over its project in Cameroon:

“Kuala Lumpur-based certification body RSPO said in a statement on Tuesday that Herakles had issued a written withdrawal of its application on Aug. 24, before the organisation could check the allegations made against the firm.

Greenpeace and other organisations had filed a complaint with RSPO alleging that Herakles’ project violated Cameroonian laws. The groups also said the area earmarked for the plantation was in a biodiversity hotspot and ‘would disrupt the ecological landscape and migration routes of protected species.’ ”

Latest Developments, August 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Pharma bribes
The Washington Post reports that pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has agreed to pay $60 million in fines over US charges that its subsidiaries bribed doctors and health officials in “about a dozen countries“:

“ ‘Pfizer subsidiaries in several countries had bribery so entwined in their sales culture that they offered points and bonus programs to improperly reward foreign officials who proved to be their best customers,’ said Kara Brockmeyer, who heads the SEC unit that enforces the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it a crime to bribe foreign government officials.”

Private security misconduct
The Associated Press reports that the private military company formerly known as Blackwater – now called Academi LLC – has agreed to pay a fine to settle 17 criminal charges, including arms smuggling:

“The list of violations includes possessing automatic weapons in the United States without registration, lying to federal firearms regulators about weapons provided to the king of Jordan, passing secret plans for armored personnel carriers to Sweden and Denmark without U.S. government approval and illegally shipping body armor overseas.

‘For an extended period of time, Academi/Blackwater operated in a manner which demonstrated systemic disregard for U.S. Government laws and regulations,’ said Chris Briese, Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI.”

The New York Times reports that a Singaporean diplomat has suggested Europe could benefit from showing greater humility in its relations with other regions:

“ ‘The problem is that Europe sees itself as a ‘normative power,’ as a region which sets the universal norm,’ said [Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large, Tommy] Koh in a speech marking the 15th anniversary of the Asia-Europe Foundation.

“This role often makes Europe a very poor interlocutor because its mission is not to appreciate alternative views but to impose its view on the world,” said Mr. Koh.

‘I wonder if the day will ever come when Europe will be humble enough to want to learn from Asia,’ he said, singling out the continent’s experience in dealing with multiculturalism, a challenge facing Europe.
He had heard three European leaders declare that multiculturalism was “a failure,” he said.
“I wish that their advisers had suggested that they should visit Southeast Asia to see how other countries have made a success of multiculturalism,” said Mr. Koh.”

Don’t call it a war
Obama administration counterterror chief John Brennan’s description of current American policy in Yemen sounds awfully familiar, according to Wired’s Danger Room blog:

“If you put the U.S. approaches to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan into a blender, the frothing mixture that emerged would be Yemen policy. Brennan didn’t come close to conceding that the U.S. is at war in Yemen during a Wednesday talk at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. Rather, Brennan took pains to describe President Obama’s approach to Yemen as a giant development effort — although it’s the type of economic improvement initiative that involves robots of death circling overhead.”

Do no harm
Médecins Sans Fronitères’ Judit Rius Sanjuan argues US enthusiasm for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens America’s own stated global goal of an AIDS-free generation:

“For example, the U.S. government wants TPP countries to lower the bar for patentability, thereby granting pharmaceutical companies new patents on variations of old drugs with little therapeutic benefit for patients. These provisions could stifle the production of less expensive generic forms. And, the U.S. would make it impossible to challenge a patent’s validity before it is granted – a commonly used tool that helps to prevent frivolous and unwarranted patenting and which is vital to fostering an IP system that rewards innovations benefiting patients. The U.S. demands also extend patent monopolies beyond the traditional 20-year period and make it harder for generics to get regulatory approval, which will serve to keep generics out and prop up drug prices for longer.”

Fuel on the fire
The Guardian’s Seumas Milne contends that foreign intervention is now “driving the escalation of the conflict” in Syria:

“Many in the Syrian opposition would counter that they had no choice but to accept foreign support if they were to defend themselves against the regime’s brutality. But as the independent opposition leader Haytham Manna argues, the militarisation of the uprising weakened its popular and democratic base – while also dramatically increasing the death toll.

But intervention in Syria is prolonging the conflict, rather than delivering a knockout blow. Only pressure for a negotiated settlement, which the west and its friends have so strenuously blocked, can now give Syrians the chance to determine their own future – and halt the country’s descent into darkness.”

Delusions of altruism
Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Jayati Ghosh takes aim at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who implied in a speech last week that China is using Africa for its resources:

“Certainly, there is more than an element of truth in such warnings. Yet US and European companies continue to try to exploit these countries’ resources as much, if not more, not least through land and other resource grabs. If anything, their concern now is that competition from Chinese and Indian (and even Brazilian and Malaysian) firms is forcing them to offer better terms for their resource extraction. As some Africans put it, it is better to have competing imperialists in action, to allow the objects of interest to play them off against one another. For northern capital used to treating so much of the less developed world as its happy hunting ground, this comes as a nasty shock.

So, please, let’s get real about western ‘help’ to Africa and other poor countries. Most of the developing world has already seen through it, so perhaps it’s time for people in the north to stop deluding themselves?”

Fighting the resource curse
Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz urges governments in resource-rich countries to stand up to foreign mining companies so that economic benefits can flow to their citizens:

“Well designed, competitive, transparent auctions can generate much more revenue than sweetheart deals. Contracts, too, should be transparent, and should ensure that if prices soar – as they have repeatedly – the windfall gain does not go only to the company.
Unfortunately, many countries have already signed bad contracts that give a disproportionate share of the resources’ value to private foreign companies. But there is a simple answer: renegotiate; if that is impossible, impose a windfall-profit tax.

Companies will tell Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, and Mozambique to act quickly, but there is good reason for them to move more deliberately. The resources will not disappear, and commodity prices have been rising. In the meantime, these countries can put in place the institutions, policies, and laws needed to ensure that the resources benefit all of their citizens.”