Latest Developments, June 29

In today’s news…

Two World Bank economists argue the best way to reduce corruption and ensure Africa benefits from the current commodity boom is for governments to transfer portions of the resulting revenues directly to their citizens. Of course, government corruption is not the only obstacle to translating mineral wealth into societal benefits. After a three-year dispute, Canada’s First Quantum Minerals has just agreed to pay $224 million in tax arrears to Zambia. The Reuters piece says: “According to the World Bank, copper is responsible for 70 to 75 percent of export earnings but the mining industry as a whole only contributes about 10 percent of Zambia’s tax revenue.”

In the wake of last week’s guilty plea by  another Canadian company, Niko Resources, for bribing a Bangladeshi official, Transparency International finds itself in the unusual position of praising Canada…sort of. In the same breath, the organization points out that Canadian law defines prosecutable foreign bribery cases excessively narrowly and calls for the revival of proposed improvements that died in 2009 when the minority government ended the parliamentary session prematurely.

As the US and Switzerland struggle to come to an agreement on dealing with tax avoidance, the Tax Justice Network suggests some Swiss media and banks are too cozy to allow a meaningful public discussion on the impacts of tax evasion. Perhaps a quick trip to Vienna is in order.

As things stand, US sanctions on Sudanese oil exports will not apply to South Sudan when it officially declares independence on July 9. Unless South Sudanese oil exports, which account for 98 percent of the government’s budget, pass north through Sudan. Which is the only way the pipelines run.

Le Monde Diplomatique’s Serge Halimi argues the current debt crisis represents a threat to democracy as much as the economy and asks (in French) if there is an alternative to “shock therapy.” Another article in the same publication provides the example of Ecuador’s 2008 constitution which stipulates public debt must not impact national sovereignty, human rights or environmental protection; public debt can only be incurred to improve infrastructure or to invest in projects that will pay for themselves; public debt refinancing is only an option if the new terms are advantageous to Ecuador; and the nationalization of private debt is prohibited.

The World Bank tweets: “The time to act is now. The world’s poor will suffer first and most from #climatechange.,” while the UK House of Commons environmental audit committee slams the global lending institution’s energy policies, which may actually be making climate change worse.

Andrea Wechsler argues in Global Policy that “global governance arrangements must reach beyond the limited concept of intellectual property to knowledge as such and, thus, address global knowledge governance.” But a number of civil society organizations worry a new set of principles on Internet policymaking raises “cybersecurity and intellectual property rights to a level of importance that is comparable with internationally recognized individual human rights such as freedom of expression.”

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