Latest Developments, September 26

In the latest news and analysis…

Waiting for the politicians
Grist reports that 11 major engineering organizations have issued a joint statement saying a lack of political will, rather than technological shortcomings, are standing in the way of an 85-percent cut in global emissions by 2050.
“The statement calls on world leaders to reach a global commitment to emissions reduction and energy efficiency at December’s COP17 climate change talks. Once that commitment is in place and adequately backed up, say the engineers, the technology is there to carry it out.”

Killer profits
The Arms Trade Treaty Monitor has collected statements made last week to the UN General Assembly by the leaders of countries such as Mexico, Nigeria, Ghana and Costa Rica concerning the agreement which should be finalized in 2012.
“It is unjust and inhuman that the profits of the arms industry should decide the deaths of thousands of people,” according President Felipe Calderón of Mexico.

Untapped markets for unmanned aircraft
The Globe and Mail reports worldwide drone sales are expected to double over the next decade but with a sluggish US market, the quest for profits could trump proliferation concerns.
“Both surveillance and armed U.S. drones, which have been widely deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, have received strong interest from Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia and nuclear neighbours India and Pakistan, among others.”

Trafficking losses
The Financial Times reports on the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s growing interest in cracking down on loopholes that enable companies to play one country against another in order avoid paying taxes.
“The OECD last year highlighted its fears about the ability of banks to use losses accumulated since the financial crisis – calculated by the OECD to be worth $700bn – as a tool for aggressive tax planning. Among the concerns is ‘loss trafficking’ – schemes in which losses are sold to other companies to reduce their tax payment. In a report published in August, the OECD also warned about aggressive tax planning concerning the carry-forward of ‘vast’ corporate losses than can be as high as 25 per cent of gross domestic product in some countries.”

G20 and tax dodging
Christian Aid’s David McNair accuses G20 finance and development ministers of “backing away from their commitments to help poor countries collect more of the billions they lose to tax dodgers” at last week’s meeting in Washington.
“If the G20 were serious about harnessing the power of tax against poverty, they would have made a specific commitment to the big solution to tax dodging – financial transparency. Such transparency would make life far harder for companies and individuals hiding wealth in tax havens, not to mention the multinationals that use financial secrecy to dodge billions in tax in poor countries.”

Dodgy oil contracts
A new Global Witness report calling for reforms in Liberia’s oil sector also touches on some questionable behaviour by American oil giant Chevron.
“In 2007, Nigeria’s Oranto Petroleum authorized a bribe to be paid to the Legislature in connection with the passage of at least one of its contracts. In 2010, US company Chevron purchased a 70 % share of the same contracts, despite information about how they were obtained being in the public domain.”

Oversimplifying the economy
University of Toronto historian Michael Bliss suggests the thinking underlying the last few decades of Western economic policy reveal “a naive, self-serving misreading of history” and warns against anyone who suggests “obese and addicted societies” can painlessly right themselves by pushing the right fiscal buttons.
“The danger of listening to the people who oversimplify the past and then oversimplify the present… is that they really can make things worse, especially when they propose to dope us up on more of the same. The longer we avoid accepting complex, unmanageable realities, and the real discomforts involved in convalescence and recovery, the more we risk the long-term future for our children and grandchildren.”

The power of aid
The Guardian reports on the remarkable similarities between the UK’s “centre right development policy,” as described by the man who runs it, Andrew Mitchell, and the development policy of the ostensibly centre left Obama administration.
“Over the past 18 months, the US and the UK have been treading very similar development policy paths. As well as results, both talk about the important role to be played by the private sector, and by science and technology, in bringing about development. And both pepper speeches and announcements with mentions of national interests, security and power. The opening line of the executive summary in the USAid policy framework for 2011 to 2015, published earlier this month, provides a clear example. ‘International development co-operation is a key component of American power, along with diplomacy and defense,’ it reads.”

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