Latest Developments, April 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Land grab data
The Guardian reports on a new database of international land deals that indicates the rate at which investors are gobbling up Africa’s agricultural land.
“Researchers say 754 deals have been identified on the continent, covering 56.2m hectares – or roughly the size of Kenya.
Little evidence of job creation or other benefits to local communities could be found among the hundreds of largely export-oriented projects, said the report. In some cases, it adds, investors have secured hundreds of thousands of hectares of prime farmland at little to no cost. One deal in South Sudan, for example, has reportedly granted a Norwegian investor a 99-year lease for 179,000 hectares at an annual cost of just $0.07 a hectare.

But, so far, few large-scale projects have been established on the millions of hectares bought or leased for agricultural activities, according to the report, which says less than 30% of documented deals are thought to be in production. It suggests that some investors may have underestimated the challenges associated with their projects, while other deals are likely to be purely strategic and speculative investments.”

Suicidal tendencies
Reuters reports that workers at a Chinese factory owned by Apple supplier Foxconn have once again threatened mass suicide just weeks after the two companies came up with a “landmark agreement” to improve working conditions.
“The deal was agreed almost two years after a series of worker suicides at Foxconn plants focused attention on conditions at Chinese factories and sparked criticism Apple’s products were built on the backs of mistreated Chinese workers.
On Tuesday, Apple reported that its fiscal second-quarter net income almost doubled after a jump in iPhone sales, blowing past financial market expectations.”

Shell games
Amnesty International has slammed oil giant Shell for its response to allegations it has caused serious environmental damage in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
“Shell says more than 70% of spills in the Niger Delta over the last five years were caused by sabotage or leaks caused by thieves. But such claims by Shell on the proportion of oil spilled as a result of illegal activity are not credible. Based on new evidence, more than half the oil spilled in the Niger Delta during 2008 – and possibly as much as 80 per cent – was due to operational failure, not sabotage.”

Defining crisis
The Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders writes that “people with decent but ordinary employment” in places like London, Nairobi, Toronto and Mumbai can no longer afford housing.
“ ‘Every time house prices fall, the national newspapers say there is a housing crisis,’ says Alan Gilbert, a housing-policy specialist at the University College of London. ‘I would argue otherwise – the housing situation is better when house prices are stable or falling – because that means that demand is being outstripped by supply.’

If we really wanted housing to be profitable and plentiful, we’d tax owners on the annual rise in value of their property – a Land Value Tax.”

Who’s afraid of UNCTAD?
Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Jayati Ghosh analyzes last week’s contentious UN Conference on Trade and Development in Doha, which suggested the north-south divide is alive and well.
“The governments of the United States and other developed countries are keen to export what they see as democracy to different parts of the world, and to point out (with respect to countries that try to control information and freedom of speech) that it is impossible to control the spread of ideas. Clearly, they need to learn the same messages themselves, especially with respect to ideas and economic analysis.”

Power shift
OpenOil’s Johnny West calls on resource-rich countries to stand up to extractive industry multinationals.
“The IMF makes two surprising observations in its consultation document, albeit in carefully coded language. The first is that oil and mining companies might be ‘under-taxe’ relative to their profits and internal rates of return. The second is that ‘in some cases, governments might benefit from separating exploration from extraction - for example, by auctioning known deposits to the highest bidder’.
Behind these mundane words lies scope for a considerable shift in thinking.”

Post-neoclassical thinking
The Fung Global Institute’s Andrew Sheng argues that “sacrifice in the interest of unity” is the only path to a sustainable global economy.
“Meanwhile, existing political systems promise good jobs, sound governance, a sustainable environment, and social harmony without sacrifice – a paradise of self-interested free riders that can be sustained only by sacrificing the natural environment and the welfare of future generations.
We cannot postpone the pain of adjustment forever by printing money. Sustainability can be achieved only when the haves become willing to sacrifice for the have-nots.”

Economist accountability
Harvard University economist Dani Rodrik suggests his colleagues should take responsibility for the real-world damage their ideas can cause.
“In the aftermath of the financial crisis, it became fashionable for economists to decry the power of big banks. It is because politicians are in the pockets of financial interests, they said, that the regulatory environment allowed those interests to reap huge rewards at great social expense. But this argument conveniently overlooks the legitimizing role played by economists themselves. It was economists and their ideas that made it respectable for policymakers and regulators to believe that what is good for Wall Street is good for Main Street.
Economists love theories that place organized special interests at the root of all political evil. In the real world, they cannot wriggle so easily out of responsibility for the bad ideas that they have so often spawned. With influence must come accountability.”

Latest Developments, April 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Looking beyond aid
The Guardian reports that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has urged the EU to do more to ensure its trade, immigration and food policies do not harm poor countries.
“Between 2009 and 2011, only seven out of 164 impact assessments looked at the impact on developing countries even though 77 were potentially relevant to them, the [OECD's development assistance committee] said. In the case of fisheries policy, the impact assessment restricted its analysis to public agreements, excluding the majority of EU vessels that fish outside EU waters under private agreements or joint venture, the review noted.”

Commodity pains
The UN News Centre reports on new findings that suggest high commodity prices are doing more harm than good to poor countries, despite higher export revenues.
“What should be a boon for poor nations, especially the globe’s 48 least developed countries – whose economies often depend heavily on commodity exports – is on balance a negative development because many of these countries are net importers of oil and staple foods.
Since the food crisis of 2008, prices for basic nourishment have been both volatile and high, the report notes – and poor families are acutely vulnerable, as they typically spend 50 per cent or more of their incomes on food.”

Five-star apology
Postmedia News reports that Canada’s international development minister has apologized for upgrading from “a five-star hotel to a swankier hotel” at the taxpayers’ expense while attending a conference in London last year.
“The government announced Monday [International Development Minister Bev Oda] was reimbursing some of the additional costs from the June 2011 international conference — held to discuss vaccines and immunization for children in developing countries — after they were uncovered in a media report.
Those reimbursed costs included the $16 glass of orange juice.
In her apology, Oda made no mention of repaying the money she spent hiring a chauffeured limousine during her trip — costs that may not have been incurred had she stayed in the hotel where the conference was held.”

Museum greenwash
The CBC reports that environmental groups are protesting the decision to name a room at the Canadian Museum of Nature after mining giant Barrick Gold.
“Barrick Gold Corp., based out of Toronto, purchased the room’s naming rights for about $1 million. The new ‘Barrick Salon’ is the museum’s premier rental space featuring a circular room with glass windows from floor to ceiling.
The decision has activists planning a demonstration at the museum this afternoon, a few hours before the official naming reception that includes Barrick Gold executives.
They believe mining companies do not put nature before their own business practice.”

Vale under fire
Inter Press Service reports that 30 groups from around the world have come together to condemn Brazilian mining giant Vale for allegedly committing serious environmental and human rights abuses while posting earnings in excess of $20 billion in each of the last two years.
“Vale is a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, the International Council on Mining and Metals ICMM), and the São Paulo Stock Exchange Corporate Sustainability Index (ISE), all of which establish corporate social and environmental responsibility principles.
But in January 2012 it was named the “Worst Company in the World” by the Public Eye Awards, which every year name and shame the companies that have shown the worst social or environmental irresponsibility.
Vale even beat out Japan’s Tepco, the firm that operates the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, which melted down after the March 2011 tsunami.”

Duty to cooperate
The UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, argues that the current debate on climate change lacks “an honest starting point,” which he believes should be human rights.
“Climate change represents an enormous threat to a whole host of human rights: the right to food, the right to water and sanitation, the right to development. There is therefore huge scope for human rights courts and non-judicial human rights bodies to treat climate change as the immediate threat to human rights that it is. Such bodies could therefore take government policy to task when it is too short-sighted, too unambitious, or too narrowly focused on its own constituents at the expense of those elsewhere. Fossil fuel mining, deforestation, the disturbance of carbon sinks, and the degradation of the oceans are developments that can be blocked on human rights grounds.”

Africa’s image
Author Binyavanga Wainaina takes issue with international media portrayals of Africa.
“The truth is, with the rise of China, we do not have to take any deal Europe throws at us that comes packaged with permanent poverty, incompetent volunteers and the occasional Nato bomb.
As the West flounders, there is a real sense that we have some leverage.
The truth is, we will never look like what CNN wants us to look like.
But that’s fine – we can get online now and completely bypass their nonsense.”

Privatizing Rivera
Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi reflects on the irony of having to pay $25 to see the revolutionary public art of Diego Rivera inside New York’s private Museum of Modern Art.
“The spirit of Diego Rivera has long since abandoned MoMA and is now hovering somewhere between Zuccotti Park in New York and Tahrir Square in Cairo – hovering over the Syntagma Square in Athens, Azadi Square in Tehran, the Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid, and the remnants of the Pearl Square in Bahrain – where young artists are plotting the proportions of their organic tenacity between the beautiful and the just. ”

Global economic governance
The Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Deborah James argues the UN Conference on Trade and Development is “seriously threatening” to those who caused the global financial crisis.
“The role of UNCTAD as an alternative voice to the ‘Washington Consensus’ paradigm – being the only multilateral economic institution focused on development – must be strengthened vis-a-vis the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD and the G20 in global economic governance decision-making. In the coming week, it will be important to choose sides in the ‘Battle of UNCTAD’s Future Mandate.’ A lot depends on it.”

Latest Developments, April 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Big spill
Amnesty International says it has obtained evidence that a 2008 oil spill in Nigeria’s Niger Delta was “far worse” than originally reported by Shell.
“The previously unpublished assessment, carried out by US firm Accufacts Inc. found that between 1,440 and 4,320 barrels of oil were flooding the Bodo area each day following the leak. The Nigerian regulators have confirmed that the spill lasted for 72 days.
Shell’s official investigation report claims only 1,640 barrels of oil were spilt in total. But based on the independent assessment the total amount of oil spilt over the 72 day period is between 103,000 barrels and 311,000 barrels.”

Spying changes
The Washington Post reports on Pentagon plans to “ramp up its spying operations” beyond war zones with the creation of the Defense Clandestine Service.
“The plan, the [senior defense] official said, was developed in response to a classified study completed last year by the director of national intelligence that concluded that the military’s espionage efforts needed to be more focused on major targets beyond the tactical considerations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The new service will seek to ‘make sure officers are in the right locations to pursue those requirements,’ said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the ‘realignment’ of the military’s classified human espionage efforts.
The official declined to provide details on where such shifts might occur, but the nation’s most pressing intelligence priorities in recent years have included counter­terrorism, nonproliferation and ascendant powers such as China.”

Mexican migration
The Pew Hispanic Center reports that net migration from Mexico to the US has fallen to “zero,” while deportations are at an all-time high.
“The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and changing economic conditions in Mexico.

In the five-year period from 2005 to 2010, about 1.4 million Mexicans immigrated to the United States and about 1.4 million Mexican immigrants and their U.S.-born children moved from the United States to Mexico.

As apprehensions at the border have declined, deportations of unauthorized Mexican immigrants—some of them picked up at work or after being arrested for other criminal violations—have risen to record levels. In 2010, nearly 400,000 unauthorized immigrants—73% of them Mexicans—were deported by U.S. authorities.”

Endangered people
The Observer reports that the “genocide” of Brazil’s Awá people has its origins in development assistance from Europe and the World Bank.
“Their troubles began in earnest in 1982 with the inauguration of a European Economic Community (EEC) and World Bank-funded programme to extract massive iron ore deposits found in the Carajás mountains. The EEC gave Brazil $600m to build a railway from the mines to the coast, on condition that Europe received a third of the output, a minimum of 13.6m tons a year for 15 years. The railway cut directly through the Awá’s land and with the railway came settlers. A road-building programme quickly followed, opening up the Awá’s jungle home to loggers, who moved in from the east.
It was, according to Survival’s research director, Fiona Watson, a recipe for disaster. A third of the rainforest in the Awá territory in Maranhão state in north-east Brazil has since been destroyed and outsiders have exposed the Awá to diseases against which they have no natural immunity.”

World Bank land grabs
Friends of the Earth has released a new report just ahead of a World Bank conference on land and poverty, in which the NGO documents a series of abuses it traces back to “a land grab initially funded” by the financial institution.
“The World Bank had historically provided millions of dollars in funding and technical support to palm oil expansion in forested islands off the coast of Lake Victoria in Kalangala, Uganda. Nearly 10,000 hectares have already been planted covering almost a quarter of the land area of the islands. While the Bank has since disassociated itself from the project, the land grabs continue.
Palm oil plantations have come at the expense of local food crops and rainforests. Local people have been prevented from accessing water sources and grazing land. Despite promises of employment, locals have lost their means of livelihood and are struggling to make ends meet.”


Red-pen wars
Trinity College’s Vijay Prashad writes about the battle between rich countries and G-77 nations over the text of a UN Conference on Trade and Development draft document.
“At UNCTAD, the JUSSCANNZ Group (abbreviated as JZ) is the most engaged grouping. Switzerland’s ambassador to the UNCTAD seems to have taken on the role of group leader.
The most common comment on the leaked text is the following phrase ‘JZ delete’. The red pen of the JZ delegation flashed across the ‘consensus’ document, mainly fighting back against the G-77′s attempt to bring matters of finance, commodity prices and hunger onto the agenda.
One of the special sentences deleted by the JZ group is this, ‘Securing access to food – one of the most basic human needs – is a priority (JZ delete).’ Another that the European Union deleted after the G-77 + China added it in was that people have the right to ‘medicine at affordable prices (G-77) {EU delete}’. ”

British empire crimes
The Guardian’s George Monbiot takes on Britain’s “national ability to airbrush and disregard” atrocities committed in its former colonies.
“The myths of empire are so well-established that we appear to blot out countervailing stories even as they are told. As evidence from the manufactured Indian famines of the 1870s and from the treatment of other colonies accumulates, British imperialism emerges as no better and in some cases even worse than the imperialism practised by other nations. Yet the myth of the civilising mission remains untroubled by the evidence.”

Extraterritoriality
The American Lawyer’s Michael Goldhaber argues that a case currently before the US Supreme Court has the potential to do more damage to the cause of international human rights than simply establishing that the Alien Tort Statute does not apply to corporations.
“A broad ruling against extraterritoriality is more dangerous to human rights plaintiffs than a broad ruling against corporate liability for two reasons. It could bar alien tort suits against corporate officers and directors, and it could bar more traditional alien tort suits against individuals who commit torture or other war crimes.”

Latest Developments, April 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Kim prevails
Reuters reports that Jim Yong Kim has been chosen as the next World Bank president, thereby keeping alive the tradition that the US gets to decide who fills the position.
“The decision by the World Bank’s 25-member board was not unanimous, with emerging economies splitting their support. Brazil and South Africa backed [Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi] Okonjo-Iweala, while three sources said China and India supported Kim.

Okonjo-Iweala congratulated Kim and said the competition had led to ‘important victories’ for developing nations, which have increasingly pushed for more say at both institutions.
Still, she said more effort was needed to end the ‘unfair tradition’ that ensured Washington’s dominance of the global development lender.”

National oil
The Canadian Press reports that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has proposed a bill to nationalize an oil company currently controlled by a Spanish corporation.
“Fernandez said in an address to the country that the measure sent to congress on Monday is aimed at recovering the nation’s sovereignty over its hydrocarbon resources. She said the shares being expropriated will be split between the national and provincial governments.
The president complained that Argentina had a deficit of $3 billion last year as a net importer of gas and petroleum.”

G-77 awakes
Trinity College’s Vijay Prashad writes about the G-77’s resurgent feistiness in the context of the ongoing “crisis” that has engulfed the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
“[G-77 head Pisnau] Chanvitan’s statement complains that the G-77 has tried its best to be flexible with the negotiation, but ‘perhaps our constructiveness was viewed as weakness, and our accommodation viewed as capitulation’. The North has ‘regressed to behavior perhaps more appropriate to the founding days of UNCTAD, when Countries of the North felt they could dictate and marginalize developing countries from informed decision-making.’

Remarkably, Chanvitan noted that the preparatory conference has seen ‘behavior that seems to indicate a desire for the dawn of a new neo-colonialism’. Such language has not been heard from the G-77 in decades. ‘Perhaps, in our desire for consensus,’ Chanvitan notes, ‘we have accommodated too much and this good faith was misunderstood, and abused. Perhaps this should end now.’ ”

World Bank and water
Corporate Accountability International has released a new report criticizing the World Bank for promoting water privatization in poor countries.
“The report, Shutting the Spigot on Private Water: The case for the World Bank to divest, documents the failures of water privatization efforts. It states that ‘thirty-four percent of all private water contracts marketwide entered between 2000 and 2010 have failed or are in distress – four times the failure rates of comparable infrastructure projects in the electric and transportation sectors.’
Despite these failures, the World Banks is set to spend billions on privatization efforts. The ‘Bank’s private-sector arm is aiming to increase investments to $1 billion each year beginning in 2013,’ the group states.”

British tax avoidance
ActionAid’s Aida Kiangi criticizes proposed new UK laws that would make it even easier for British companies to get out of paying “their fair share of taxes in developing countries like Tanzania,” which are already feeling the effects of corporate tax avoidance.
“Research by ActionAid has revealed that 23 of the FTSE 100 firms now operate in Tanzania. Between them, these companies have 3,166 sister companies located in tax havens. Barclays has 174 companies registered in the Cayman Islands alone.

The sad fact is that both the Tanzanian and UK governments are encouraging damaging tax competition between countries. While this benefits big business, it means there isn’t sufficient revenue to invest in basic services and infrastructure. Tanzania has experienced strong growth rates over the last few years, but this simply hasn’t translated into improvements in the lives of the vast majority of Tanzanians.”

Africa reporting
The Guardian’s Afua Hirsch writes that despite efforts to present Africa in a less condescending light, Western media outlets still give too little voice to African journalists.
“At the height of Liberia’s civil war in 2003, for example, as rebels surrounded the capital Monrovia and US troops were drafted in, Liberian journalists looked on from their shelled out offices as the complex conflict they had spent the past decade covering was scooped up by western reporters. In Mali, the same thing is happening now.
The result of the continuing tendency to ignore Africans is a lamentable lack of specialist African coverage in the world’s media. An academic debate about this problem has been thriving for some time. In the meantime, however, informed consumers of African news have adopted a more proactive approach, using social networking to vent with immediate effect.”

Commodities bubble
Morgan Stanley’s Ruchir Sharma argues that the commodity boom is a much darker bubble than its high-tech predecessor, but a bubble nonetheless.
“The hype has created a new industry that turns commodities into financial products that can be traded like stocks. Oil, wheat, and platinum used to be sold primarily as raw materials, and now they are sold largely as speculative investments. Copper is piling up in bonded warehouses not because the owners plan to use it to make wire, but because speculators are sitting on it, like gold, figuring that they can sell it one day for a huge profit. Daily trading in oil now dwarfs daily consumption of oil, running up prices. While rising prices for stocks–tech ones included–generally boost the economy, high prices for staples like oil impose unavoidable costs on businesses and consumers and act as a profound drag on the economy.”

African globalization
In a Q&A with Africa is a Country, filmmaker Nuotama Frances Bodomo talks about space, place and globalization.
“I think we are used to ascribing human beings to sectioned portions of earth, giving them a place that is holistically and naturally theirs (the same way we are used to thinking that a person has a soul that cleanly lives in a body). But this understanding of home is culturally specific and has a history, which means that it changes and is changed over time. Something about a home-space feels obsolete nowadays. To organize ourselves in terms of nationality or homeland feels obsolete. But there is still a desire to have that. We haven’t quite made the paradigm shift. Something feels lost, but I can’t tell you what we have to replace it with.”

Latest Developments, April 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Suppressing dissent
A letter signed by 49 former officials from the UN Conference on Trade and Development says wealthy countries are trying to silence the organization because its economic analyses provide an alternative to the views of Western-dominated institutions, such as the World Bank and IMF.
“No organisation correctly foresaw the current crisis, and no organisation has a magic wand to deal with present difficulties. But it is unquestionable that the crisis originated in and is widespread among the countries that now wish to stifle debate about global economic policies, despite their own manifest failings in this area.

So the developed countries in Geneva have seized the occasion to stifle UNCTAD’s capacity to think outside the box. This is neither a cost-saving measure nor an attempt to ‘eliminate duplication’ as some would claim. The budget for UNCTAD’s research work is peanuts and disparate views on economic policy are needed today more than ever as the world clamours for new economic thinking as a sustainable way out of the current crisis. No, it is rather – if you cannot kill the message, at least kill the messenger. ”

ICC reparations
IRIN reports that, following the International Criminal Court’s first-ever conviction last month, reparations for the victims has become a “thorny issue.”
“No other international criminal tribunal has ever awarded reparations, but under ICC rules, those who have suffered injury or harm from a crime for which someone is convicted could receive restitution, compensation or rehabilitation.

‘The ICC was initially thinking of symbolic reparations,’ [Witness’s Bukeni] Waruzi said. ‘They were saying something like building a statue in the village that will really honour the victims. But reparations cannot be symbolic, because the crimes were not symbolic. It is now for the ICC to take full responsibility, to actually manage the expectations.’ ”

Spanish integration
Inter Press Service reports Spain’s latest national budget has cut off all funding for “social insertion, employment and education programmes” for immigrants to the debt-ridden country.
“SOS Racismo predicts that the disappearance of the fund will paralyse ‘hundreds of municipal and regional integration plans,’ and said its removal contravenes European Union agreements, such as the European Agenda for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals, established in July 2011.
According to SOS Racismo, ‘economic crises have different timescales to those needed to evaluate the extent of integration of an immigrant population that in recent years has seen its employment and family expectations frustrated.’ ”

Phasing out executions
Human Rights Watch says that five American states abolishing the death penalty in five years is a “clear sign” of the growing momentum against capital punishment in the US.
“Since 2007, the death penalty has been eliminated in New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, and Illinois. After Connecticut joins them, 17 US states will have rejected capital punishment.  Thirteen states that have the penalty on the books have not used it for at least five years. Challenges to the death penalty are also being mounted in California and Maryland.”

Big-box hate
The Atlantic reports on a new study which found a correlation between the presence of big-box stores and hate groups in communities across the US.
“Before anyone gets too worked up, the study’s authors aren’t saying that Walmarts cause hate groups to form (they’re also using Walmart here as a stand-in for all big box stores; Target merely got off the hook in the study headline). Rather, this research suggests national mega-stores like Walmart may fray the social capital in a community – by disrupting its economy and displacing the community leaders who run local businesses – in ways that enable hate groups to take hold.

Of all the variables [the study’s authors] looked at, the number of Walmarts in a county was the second-most significant predictor of the presence of hate groups, behind only the designation of a county as a Metropolitan Statistical Area, or in other words an urban one.”

Private aid
Global Humanitarian Assistance has published a new report on the increasing privatization of humanitarian and development assistance, and some of the transparency issues associated with this trend.
“While global private support to large-scale emergencies is relatively easy to gauge, it remains unclear how much private money is out there in any given year. While the absence of dedicated tracking mechanisms for this type of financing certainly does nothing to improve clarity, it is the lack of consistent reporting on the income and expenditure of private aid funding globally that makes any attempt at tracking it a near impossible mission.

If tracking total private voluntary contributions for humanitarian aid is a challenging task, gauging where this private money goes is an even more difficult enterprise. Very few humanitarian organisations report their private country or sector expenditure separately from their overall funding allocation.”

Drug-war addiction
The Universidad de Di Tella’s Juan Gabriel Tokatlian hopes the Obama administration’s appointment of a new “drug warrior” for Latin America and the Caribbean will mean a change of American tactics in the region.
“And, throughout Latin America, the situation has only worsened since the 1990’s. Indeed, Latin American countries’ US-backed fight against drugs has had universally destructive consequences in terms of civil-military relations, human-rights violations, and corruption.

The military and political challenges are significant, the risks are considerable, and the benefits are uncertain. But if [United States Southern Command] does not implement major changes in how it prosecutes the drug war, the US will find itself facing an increasingly volatile and dangerous set of neighbors to the south.”

Extractive politics
OpenOil’s Johnny West argues the extractive industry is inherently more political than other forms of business and any attempts to regulate it must take this feature into account.
“Once you recognise rent as the essence of the global oil and the mining industries, you must recognise that everything about them is as much political, and geo-political, as it is economic. That is how historically mismanagement of those industries has led to such massive corruption and conflict. Nobody ever went to war over car manufacturing or internet service provision. When it comes to bananas or silicon chips, or intellectual copyright, the term ‘trade war’ is, thankfully, a metaphor.

With oil, business is politics and politics is business, whatever anyone says. Technocratic solutions can only pick up where broader political questions have been settled.”