Latest Developments, November 16

In the latest news and analysis…

A little relief
The Paris Club of creditor nations has announced a debt relief agreement with Cote d’Ivoire that will reschedule and forgive a portion of the conflict-ravaged country’s debt, while leaving about 95 percent of it on the books.
“Participating creditors welcomed that these measures are expected to reduce the debt service (including the arrears) due by the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire to Paris Club creditors between 1st July 2011 and 30 June 2014 by more than 78% which corresponds to 1 822 million USD, of which 397 million USD cancelled.

The stock of debt owed to Paris Club creditors by the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire as of 1st July 2011 was estimated to be more than USD 7,185 million in nominal terms.”

Vulture proofing
The Guardian reports on efforts to prevent vulture funds from buying sovereign debt from some of the world’s poorest countries and litigating to collect payment with interest.
“The [UK’s Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act 2010] law, a world first, requires commercial creditors to comply with the terms of international debt cancellation schemes, which specify a single discount rate for creditors to ensure equal treatment. The law applies to the UK courts and ensures that public money given towards debt cancellation is not diverted to private investors.
However, debt campaigners point out that UK legislation applies only to the 40 [heavily indebted poor] countries and applies to cases before 2004.”

World turned upside down
The UN News Centre reports that the organization’s top food expert is calling on the World Trade Organization to prioritize the right to food in its Doha Development Round of negotiations.
“Some measures that have been cited as helpful in rehabilitating local food production capacity in developing countries are higher tariffs, temporary import restrictions, state purchase from small-holders, and targeted farm subsidies.
But WTO rules leave little space for developing countries to put these measures in place, said [Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier] De Schutter.
‘Even if certain policies are not disallowed, they are certainly discouraged by the complexity of the rules and the threat of legal action,’ he stated. ‘Current efforts to build humanitarian food reserves in Africa must tip-toe around the WTO rulebook. This is the world turned upside down’.”

Oil justice
The American Lawyer’s Michael Goldhaber predicts that American oil giant Chevron will come out on top in the decades-long battle over up to $18 billion in compensation for environmental damage in Ecuador.
“The moment that the arbitrators order Ecuador to make Chevron whole for $18 billion, all of the case dynamics are turned upside down. Suddenly Ecuador’s interests are no longer aligned with the plaintiffs. Suddenly, it is Ecuador and Chevron who share a common interest. And that interest is in dismissing the case, or vastly reducing the verdict.”

Ghanaian oil concerns
Pipe(line) Dreams’ Christiane Badgley writes about a mysterious oil slick that first appeared in the vicinity of a foreign-owned oil operation off the coast of Ghana before making its way to shore, as concerns over the country’s new oil industry grow.
“I’ve been trying to get more information on this spill, which according to someone at EPA, came from a tanker. There’s no way to know with any certainty that this is the case. All the information I have been able to get so far is unofficial. To date there has not been any official statement on the spill — either its source or the amount of oil spilled.”

The real Occupy debate
University of Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang argues the Occupy movement is not so much opposed to capitalism, which has taken many different forms across time and space, as to current forms that lack regulation and distribute benefits so unevenly.
“By labelling the Occupy movement “anti-capitalist”, those who do not want reforms have been able to avoid the real debate. This has to stop. It is time we use the Occupy movement as the catalyst for a serious debate on alternative institutional arrangements that will make British (or for that matter, any other) capitalism better for the majority of people.”

Right to know
The Associated Press reports the results of tests it conducted on right-to-know legislation by submitting questions about terrorism arrests and convictions in the more than100 countries where such laws exist.
“Newer democracies were in general more responsive than some developed ones. Guatemala sent all documents in 10 days, and Turkey in seven. By comparison, Canada asked for a 200-day extension, and the FBI in the United States responded six months late with a single sheet with four dates, two words and a large blanked section.”

Democratizing Europe
The Associated Press also reports the EU could be moving towards addressing one aspect of its democratic deficit after German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested the European Commission presidency should become a popularly elected position, though scepticism remains .
“Nigel Farage, a staunchly anti-EU British member of the European Parliament, was dismissive of the very notion that the EU could be democratic. ‘If the EU ever had any intention to democratize itself it would have done so in the Constitutional Treaty,’ Farage said.
‘As is perfectly evident, they rejected the idea of making it accountable to voters and so I believe this is just words to try to calm an angry populace who are speaking more and more of rejecting their political project.’”

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