Latest Developments, June 18

In the latest news and analysis…

G8 promises
The Associated Press reports on the somewhat vague declarations made at the conclusion of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland:

“G-8 leaders also published sweeping goals for tightening the tax rules on globe-trotting corporations that long have exploited loopholes to shift profits into foreign shelters that charge little tax or none. But that initiative, aimed at forcing the Googles and Apples of the world to pay higher taxes, contained only aspirations, no binding commitments.

And Britain itself stands accused of being one of the world’s main links in the tax-avoidance chain. Several of Britain’s own island territories — including Jersey, Guernsey and the British Virgin Islands — serve as shelters and funnel billions each week through the City of London.”

House cleaning
The Scotsman reports that skepticism remains after UK tax havens promised to “produce action plans” on increasing the transparency of corporations’ true owners:

“[British Prime Minister David] Cameron stepped back from making the new registry of company interests public, amid fears that if Britain acted alone, it would put UK companies at a massive disadvantage to foreign competitors.
Meanwhile, leading tax evasion campaigner Richard Murphy warned of the workload.
He said: ‘The UK’s law on companies filing information – with the register of Companies House and [Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs] – is simply not enforced now. So why on earth do we think this new law will be enforced unless the resources are put into ensuring that it is?’
There were also concerns that the deal with overseas territories would not cover ‘trusts’, which could still be used by firms to hide details.”

Tax-haven school
While the G8 was talking tough about offshore secrecy, the International Monetary Fund announced that it had opened its Africa Training Institute in a tax haven:

“ ‘Today, we are opening a new chapter in capacity-building in sub-Saharan Africa, thanks to the generous financial contribution and logistical support of the Mauritius government—the host country–as well as financial support pledges from the Australian Agency for International Development and the Chinese authorities,’ IMF representative Vitaliy Kramarenko said at the opening session. The Africa Training Institute’s key objective is to contribute to improved macroeconomic and financial policies through high-quality training, which would ultimately support sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Joint spying operations
The Washington Post reports that the UK government appears not to have been the only one involved in spying on G20 officials during 2009 meetings in London:

“At least some of the documents posted on the Guardian’s Web site contained the logos of the [National Security Agency] as well as Canada’s security agency, suggesting that a portion of the activities were part of joint or shared operations. The documents also indicated that the British were passed information from the NSA, which reportedly was conducting an eavesdropping operation on then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.”

Fleecing a continent
The Guardian reports that the African Development Bank’s president, Donald Kaberuka, has said his continent is “being ripped off big time”:

“Kaberuka was addressing the perennial question of foreign corporations extracting Africa’s mineral resources at huge profit for shareholders with scant reward for local populations.

Africa loses an estimated $62.2bn (£40bn) in illegal outflows and price manipulation every year, much of it exported by multinationals. The Africa Progress Panel under former UN secretary general Kofi Annan recently highlighted how the Democratic Republic of the Congo lost at least $1.36bn in potential revenues between 2010 and 2012 due to knock-down sales of mining assets to offshore companies.”

Justice delayed
The Age reports that Australian police made the “inexplicable” decision not to investigate allegations that Melbourne-based mining giant BHP Billiton had bribed officials in Cambodia, China and Australia:

“Confidential documents reveal how the [Australian Federal Police] and [the Australian Securities & Investments Commission], with the knowledge of federal officials, mishandled one of the nation’s highest-profile corporate graft cases after US officials referred it to their Australian counterparts in May 2010.
US anti-corruption investigators have been probing BHP Billiton since 2009 – an inquiry that is likely to result in the company receiving a massive fine. But they had told the federal police the bribery allegations were ‘’a matter for Australian authorities’.

It was only recently that a self-initiated internal review led the AFP to reopen the bribery file and initiate a formal investigation.”

Executive wrongdoing
The Standard reports that the vice president of Austria’s central bank has been charged with “overseas graft and money-laundering”:

“Wolfgang Duchatczek, as well as top officials from the Austrian Mint and the central bank’s money-printing subsidiary OeBS, were accused of paying bribes to Azerbaijani and Syrian officials bribes to secure contracts between 2005 and 2011. The bribes amounted to 14-20 percent of the value of the contracts. In total, some 14 million euros made their way to Baku and Damascus via offshore accounts, prosecutors said.”

Offshore database
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has announced the launch of a new searchable database containing information from “a cache of 2.5 million leaked offshore files”:

“ICIJ’s Offshore Leaks Database reveals the names behind more than 100,000 secret companies and trusts created by two offshore services firms: Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and BVI-based Commonwealth Trust Limited (CTL). TrustNet and CTL’s clients are spread over more than 170 countries and territories.
The Offshore Leaks web app allows readers to explore the relationships between clients, offshore entities and the lawyers, accountants, banks and other intermediaries who help keep these arrangements secret.”

Haiti’s gold
Oxfam’s Keith Slack argues that a looming mining rush could make Haiti’s already considerable problems “even worse”:

“As I’ve written previously, Haiti could take some steps now that could help it avoid some of the worst impacts of the ‘resource curse.’ It must be said, though, that past efforts to build government capacity at the same time a new extractive industry develops, as was the case in Chad, don’t inspire much confidence. If Haiti’s economic development is the primary goal here, and given the country’s multiple governance and environmental challenges (severe water contamination, deforestation, vulnerability to earthquakes and hurricanes among them), there’s a heretical notion to some that should seriously be considered.
Leaving the gold in the ground is an option.”

Latest Developments, June 17

In the latest news and analysis…

War plans
The Telegraph reports on increasing American willingness to get involved in Syria’s civil war, while some US allies remain skeptical:

Reports from The Times on Friday night claimed that 300 US Marines have already been deployed to northern Jordan, along with a Patriot anti-aircraft missile, ahead of plans to arm the rebels.

Sweden opposed the US move to provide greater military support. Carl Bildt, the foreign minister, warned that the US decision could set off an arms race with Russia, which is already considering whether to supply its advanced S300 air defence systems. ‘I don’t think the way forward is to get an arms race going in Syria,’ he said, ‘There’s a risk that that would undermine the conditions for a political process.’

The option of enforcing a limited no-fly zone to protect rebel training bases in Jordan, is also being considered, according to US officials. However, the French government indicated that it would be almost impossible to secure the necessary international agreements.

Diplomatic spying
The Guardian reports that British intelligence agencies monitored the computer and phone communications of foreign officials during G20 summit meetings in London in 2009:

“The disclosure raises new questions about the boundaries of surveillance by [Government Communications Headquarters] and its American sister organisation, the National Security Agency, whose access to phone records and internet data has been defended as necessary in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. The G20 spying appears to have been organised for the more mundane purpose of securing an advantage in meetings. Named targets include long-standing allies such as South Africa and Turkey.

The documents suggest that the operation was sanctioned in principle at a senior level in the government of the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, and that intelligence, including briefings for visiting delegates, was passed to British ministers.”

UK tax havens
Christian Aid and the IF campaign have released a new report underlining the importance of UK-controlled territories to a global financial system that “encourages crime, corruption and aggressive tax avoidance” in poor countries:

“The report reveals that the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Gibraltar, Anguilla and Turks and Caicos – all British Overseas Territories – together with the Crown Dependencies of the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey are now the largest source of Foreign Direct Investment in developing countries.”

Making amends
The University of London’s Lutz Oette highlights the importance of the UK’s recent agreement to compensate Kenyan victims of colonial-era torture but calls on the government, which refused to apologize, to make “much more fundamental changes”:

“Given the historical context, this reparation is a small price to pay for a country that greatly benefited from colonialism. Rather than oppose or undermine such claims, the UK – both the government and the public at large – should welcome these developments. They provide an overdue opportunity to confront Britain’s past, to live up to the rule of law and notions of justice, and to show that it respects victims and their suffering. This includes addressing lingering colonial power imbalances.

The UK government should therefore take immediate steps to make publicly available all records about abuses committed in all former British territories and to cooperate with any interested parties, including survivors’ organisations. Where sufficient evidence is available, the UK should provide adequate reparation to the victims, which should also comprise a full apology.”

Presidential plea
Guinean President Alpha Condé calls on rich countries to do their bit in the global fight against corruption:

“What we need now is the support of developed countries in building a global business climate that permits those who play by the rules to prosper and locks out those who do not. Too many of the world’s finance centres enable the predators who rely on offshore corporate vehicles to mask their identities; loop their finances through offshore jurisdictions; and use prestigious law firms, accountants, financial advisers and public relations firms to give their destructive behaviour a false veneer of respectability.”

Cosmetic CSR
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that an Edo state government official has said that so-called corporate social responsibility projects by oil companies often do little or no good:

“[Orobosa Omo-Ojo, the Commissioner for Special Duties, Oil and Gas] said such actions by oil firms amounted to insulting the sensibilities of their host communities.
‘Most of the CSR projects by oil companies have not amounted to anything tangible to the host communities.
‘Apart from digging one bore-hole here, a three-classroom block there and a cottage hospital somewhere, the host communities have never benefited enough from oil companies.
‘Yet, they extract crude oil from the host communities for over 15 to 20 years and when the oil wells dry up, they move on leaving the community more impoverished than they met them.’ ”

What would Hippocrates do?
The Overseas Development Institute’s Yurendra Basnett calls on G8 countries to prioritize the duty to do no harm when drawing up international trade agreements:

“In the murky and complex areas of standards and technical requirements, there is a thin line between expanding and restricting trade. Most developing countries lacking capacities are likely to find themselves facing costs not benefits. The World Trade Organization ministerial conference follows the G8 later this year and needs to consider updating the rules that govern such agreements. Perhaps the notion that some benefit – but that others are not left worse-off – needs to be established as a minimum when advanced economies enter into such agreements, with the burden of proof placed on members of the exclusive arrangement. At the very least we need to keep an eye on how this plays out for developing economies that are not a part of these agreements.”

First UN war
The Economist wonders whether the United Nations really knows what it is getting itself into with its first ever combat mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

“This is the first time that the UN will send its own troops into battle. In the past the Security Council has authorised the use of ‘all necessary force’ but has delegated the fighting to posses from willing nations. In the Korean war the Americans were in command. In Afghanistan and Libya NATO took charge. In Congo, however, the UN itself will be responsible for artillery fire, helicopter gunships—and the inevitable casualties. Should the UN really be doing this?”

Latest Developments, June 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Making the rules
The Wall Street Journal reports on the unilateral actions that US officials believe their country can legally take in and around Syria:

“Proponents of the proposal say a no-fly zone could be imposed without a U.N. Security Council resolution, since the U.S. would not regularly enter Syrian airspace and wouldn’t hold Syrian territory.
U.S. planes have air-to-air missiles that could destroy Syrian planes from long ranges. But officials said that aircraft may be required to enter Syrian air space if threatened by advancing Syrian planes. Such an incursion by the U.S., if it were to happen, could be justified as self-defense, officials say.”

Continental boom
The Guardian reports on new UN population projections that suggest an equitable world will require a massively increased voice for Africa:

“The UN report World population prospects: the 2012 revision, published on Thursday, predicts the world’s population, now at 7.2 billion, will reach 8.1 billion in 2025. By mid-century, the world’s population is expected to top 9.5 billion, reaching nearly 11 billion by 2100.
More than half of the growth predicted between now and 2050 is expected in Africa, where the number of people is set to more than double, from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion. Africa’s population will continue to rise even if there is a future drop in the average number of children each woman has, says the report, which predicts the number of people living on the continent could reach 4.2 billion (or more than 35% of total global population) by 2100.”

Unanimous gene ruling
Inter Press Service reports that all nine members of the US Supreme Court have agreed that “naturally occurring DNA” cannot be patented:

“The decision overturns three decades of practise to the contrary by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Health and civil liberties groups are celebrating the unusual unanimous ruling, as are consumer protection advocates.
Although the case dealt specifically with questions regarding the ‘isolating’ of genes within the human genome, the judges did not limit their decision to human genetics, meaning the case will have an effect throughout the biotechnology industry.”

Fear of transparency
The Independent reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has asked his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, not to block an agreement aimed at cracking down on “secret companies used for money laundering, tax evasion and terrorist activity” at next week’s G8 summit:

“But after talks in Downing Street last night it was doubtful whether Canada would back Mr Cameron’s ‘full disclosure’ plan for the eight leading economies to create registers of who controls and owns every company based in their country.”

The US and Russia also have doubts about public registers. Mr Cameron may have to settle for a Plan B, under which the G8 nations would set up private registers that could be accessed only by tax and law enforcement authorities. It is not certain Canada would agree to that. Aid agencies say private registers would be second best because it would be harder for the world’s poorest countries to track individuals and businesses avoiding tax in their nations who hide behind anonymous ‘shell companies.’ ”

Tax hunger
Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, writes that “nothing is more crucial in financial or symbolic terms” in the fight against hunger than tax justice:

“It’s not just the usual suspect tax havens that are culpable. The whole world is a tax haven for companies able to navigate between its tax jurisdictions. The G8 cannot control tax policy in developing countries, but it can clamp down on the multinationals and individuals whose wealth is often earned in developing countries but domiciled and managed in London, New York and Paris, perversely causing more cash to flow from poor countries to rich countries than vice versa.”

Green fraud
The Oakland Institute’s Anuradha Mittal uses the example of a US-based company’s duplicitous attempts to establish a massive palm-oil plantation in Cameroon as a reminder that “Africa is open for business, not for theft”:

“Last year, after complaints about [Herakles Farms] to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) highlighted the company’s alleged environmental violations, [CEO Bruce] Wrobel made no attempts to set the record straight. Instead, Herakles resigned from the Roundtable before the claims were to be investigated, spuriously stating that they ‘remain committed’ to RSPO’s standards.

This is a sobering lesson for all parties involved – that the land rush by foreign investors into African nations is not philanthropically driven, despite claims to the contrary. Rather, companies such as Herakles Farms have exploited images of poverty and hunger, and couched their efforts in the language of sustainability, allowing them to handily reap profits from Africa’s resources while undermining national laws, local communities and the environment.”

ICC judged
The Institute for Security Studies’ Solomon Dersso argues that the International Criminal Court’s claims that it is immune to political influence are not entirely convincing:

“While legally speaking this position is largely true, the nature and structure of international politics is such that the application of international justice processes more often than not reflects the distribution of power within the international community. The ICC is not immune to this, and the way in which the ICC launched its case in Libya is a testimony. The speed with which and the way the ICC prosecutor launched this case also betrays the ICC’s acquiescence to its instrumentalisation by UN Security Council politics.

Some of the referrals, such as those in Uganda and Kenya, were inspired by domestic political calculations rather than the interest to serve justice. Indeed, in charging some people and not others in these cases, the ICC was in some ways playing local politics.”

Bad name
The Huffington Post reports that National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell is standing by a team name that a group of US Congress members recently called a “racial, derogatory slur”:

“ ‘The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context,’ Goodell wrote. ‘For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.’ ”

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, June 5

In the latest news and analysis…

House cleaning
The Guardian reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron is urging all of Britain’s oversees territories, including some of the world’s most notorious tax havens, to sign agreements on sharing tax information:

“Britain has made a clampdown on corporate and individual tax avoidance the central theme of its chairmanship of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on 17 and 18 June, and Cameron has decided that he cannot be a credible chair of the summit if he is not seen to be trying to put Britain’s own house in order.

The precise constitutional relationship between the UK and the overseas territories is a matter of dispute, but some aid agencies claim the UK can in effect force the crown dependencies to close down the tax loopholes.”

War on drones
The Associated Press reports that new Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has pledged to end US drone strikes in his country:

“ ‘This daily routine of drone attacks, this chapter shall now be closed,’ Sharif said to widespread applause. ‘We do respect others’ sovereignty. It is mandatory on others that they respect our sovereignty.’
But he gave few details on how he might end the strikes. Many in Pakistan say the strikes kill large numbers of innocent civilians – something the U.S. denies – and end up breeding more extremism by those seeking retribution.”

Freeze ended
The Financial Times reports that Argentina’s top court has lifted a freeze on assets belonging to US oil giant Chevron, which stemmed from a $19 billion environmental damages ruling in Ecuador:

“The asset freeze had been ordered by Argentine judge Adrián Elcuj Miranda last year under a treaty to which Ecuador and Argentina are signatories.
However, legal action continues on having the Ecuador judgment legally validated by an Argentine court, according to Enrique Bruchou, an Argentine lawyer co-ordinating efforts to seek enforcement of the ruling outside Ecuador. The same judge is hearing that case.

Plaintiffs maintain that Chevron’s subsidiaries cannot be excluded from the environmental damages suit.”

The company you keep
The Guardian reports on the guest list for this year’s summit of the “secretive” Bilderberg group which brings together political and business leaders from Europe and North America for informal talks:

“A list of about 140 participants, made up almost overwhelmingly of white males but described as ‘a diverse group of political leaders and experts from industry’, was published on Monday by the organisation. It included only 14 women.

Attenders from financial backgrounds include Marcus Agius, the former chairman of Barclays who quit the post in the wake of the Libor interbank lending rate scandal, as well as Douglas J Flint, group chairman of HSBC Holdings plc, which was hit with a $1.9bn (£1.25bn) fine last December over allegations it had acted as banker for rogue states, terrorists and drug lords.
Peter Sutherland, the chairman of Goldman Sachs International, and Michael J Evans, vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs & Co, are the participants from the investment banking giant whose involvement in the sale of high-risk mortgage related investments has borne much of the blame for causing the 2008 global financial crisis.”

Big farming
The Thompson Reuters Foundation reports on calls for the UK to stop funding a G8 food scheme for Africa described by critics as representing “a new wave of colonialism”:

“More than 25 UK campaign groups are urging British Prime Minister David Cameron to withhold 395 million pounds pledged to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition over the next three years.

One major concern is a requirement that African nations change their seed laws, trade laws and land ownership at the expense of local farmers and local food needs.
Campaigners also fear it will allow big multinational seed, fertiliser and agrochemical companies such as Yara, Monsanto, Syngenta and Cargill to set the agenda.”

Sahel security
Voice of America reports on “stepped up” security at Western installations in the Sahel following attacks on foreign-owned gas and uranium facilities since France’s military intervention in Mali began earlier this year:

“ ‘It [France] gets not far short of 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power – that’s by far the highest proportion in the world. It uses around 12,500 tons of uranium per year. Not far short of a third of that comes from Niger already,’ said [Imperial College London’s Malcolm] Grimston.

‘[French state-owned nuclear giant] Areva has invested something like 1.5 billion euros [almost $2 billion] in the new [Imouraren] mine in Niger. That is a very key area, and I think France will be very keen to maintain its long-term interest and its long-term security in that area,’ he said.”

Oil City
Le Monde reports on the changes – so far, not for the better – in the Ghanaian city of Takoradi since the UK’s Tullow Oil began production at the offshore Jubilee oil field in 2010:

“Local radio journalist Ebenezer Afanyi Dadzie has seen the city change rapidly but without any real improvement in the daily lives of Ghanaians. ‘For the moment, there are additional problems for poor people.’
The arrival of expatriate workers led to an explosion of housing and land prices. ‘A room rented out at 40 cedis [US$20] now costs 80 or 100. Bit by bit, residents have had to leave for the suburbs,’ the journalist explained. A tour of the city centre, where huge hotel complexes have sprung up, demonstrates this real estate madness.

For now, oil production has created few jobs. The men working on the offshore rigs are expats.” [Translated from the French.]

State of siege
The Associated Press reports on “the fear that rules” the area surrounding a mining project in Guatemala owned by Canada’s Tahoe Resources:

“Protesters say the project, called El Escobal, will drain or pollute the local water supply, and hundreds of people have blocked roads and burned buildings to stop it from going forward. That’s tested President Otto Perez Molina, who sent in hundreds of troops and suspended the right to hold public gatherings in four townships near the mine in early May. It was the second time during his 16 months in office that he has declared a state of siege in response to protests against a foreign-run mining project.

[Oscar Morales, president of the Community Development Council] said eight community consultations of 4,222 adults found that nearly all of them opposed the mine. He said he wants to hold another legally binding community consultation about the mine, but municipal governments have refused.”