Latest Developments, November 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Structural maladjustment
The Inter Press Service reports on the release of a new UN report on the current state of the world’s Least Developed Countries, while quoting some of the organization’s economists who are highly critical of the impact the World Bank and IMF have in such countries.
“There are currently 48 poorest countries with low per capita income of less than a dollar a day. About two-thirds of LDCs are located in Africa, and all indicators suggest that they are the worst affected by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank’s market-oriented policies.
‘The neo-liberal policies (fostered by the IMF and World Bank) devastated these countries,’ says Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, [UN Conference on Trade and Development’s] secretary general. ‘These policies turned most sub-Saharan African countries from net food producing countries into net food importing countries.’
Team leader for the report, Zeljka Kozul-Wright, said that the LDCs are the victims of ‘structural maladjustment’ policies followed over the last 40 years, which resulted in ‘boom-bust cycles and growth collapses.’

Aiding repression
The Washington Post reports the US government has launched an investigation to determine whether technology made by California-based Blue Coat Systems helped the Syrian government monitor dissidents.
“On Thursday, three senators urged the Obama administration to investigate whether Blue Coat and another California-based company had provided “tools of repression” to Damascus.
‘The sale of U.S.-made equipment that may have contributed to ongoing violence is unacceptable and should be investigated as soon as possible,’ said the letter from Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.).

The senators who asked the Obama administration to investigate Blue Coat also asked for an investigation into the California-based company NetApp.
Bloomberg News has reported that NetApp equipment is part of a Syrian Internet surveillance project designed to intercept and catalogue all e-mail in Syria.”

Copyright trumps all
The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Trevor Timm argues a proposed US copyright law – the Stop Internet Piracy Act – will give corporations the power to censor Internet sites and could endanger human rights activists around the world.
“Ironically, we know from the WikiLeaks cables that the State Department has also aggressively lobbied many other countries for strict new laws similar to SOPA. They have even offered to fund enforcement and literally draft the laws that sacrifice free speech for greater copyright protection for Hollywood.
Over one hundred law professors signed a letter staunchly opposing the Senate’s version of this bill on constitutional grounds earlier this year. Even Google’s public policy director Bob Boorstin said the bill ‘Would put the US government in the very position we criticise repressive regimes for doing – all in the name of copyright’. Here’s hoping Hillary takes a closer look and repudiates SOPA as adverse to US interests both at home and abroad.”

Shadow world
Bradford University’s Paul Rogers reviews a new book, written by former South African member of parliament Andrew Feinstein, on the global arms trade and the “web of malpractice” into which it draws the world’s politicians.
“Throughout The Shadow World, Feinstein emphasises the sheer corruption of the whole process, pointing to the enticements and kick-backs, always overshadowed by the ubiquitous use of ‘commission’ and ‘agents’, as though the distancing of corruption through intermediaries somehow makes it more acceptable. What he seeks to do is open up perhaps the greatest international can of worms of the current era, but this is inevitably an area replete with rumour and all too often affected by conspiracy theories that divert attention from the reality of trading in death.”

Cheaper is not always better
Michael Jennings, a lecturer at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, argues that donor pressure for poor countries to open public tenders to international competition is not necessarily good for their economies.
“Public procurement is generally seen as a technical, accounting issue, not a development one. This view is profoundly wrong. State and donor-funded purchasing is a significant part of overall GDP in developing countries, around 20% (and substantially more in some countries). Where that money is spent, and whether governments are able to make decisions on how to use their public resources, matters considerably for development.

Getting value for money is important, of course. Spend less per individual drug, for example, and you get more drugs for the overall money spent. But “value” should not only reflect monetary considerations. Used in the right way, procurement could be an important development tool: helping create jobs, boosting skills, supporting emerging industrial sectors, helping national economies wean themselves gradually off aid.”

Ostracizing tax havens
ECONorthwest’s Ann Hollingshead writes that although not much in the way of concrete policy came out of the recent G20 summit, its host, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, had some harsh words for a handful of tax havens, including one of France’s neighbours.
“Sarkozy intonated that a list of eleven uncooperative jurisdictions should be ‘excluded from the international community,’ including: Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua, Botswana, Brunei, Panama, Seychelles, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. He added that a list of countries which do not conform to acceptable tax practices would be published at all future G20 summits. ‘We don’t want to have tax havens any more.’ He said ‘Our message is very clear.’”

Power shift
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues there has been “a subtle rebalancing of power” between aid donor and recipient countries over the last few years.
“Changes in the global context are the main causes of this change in body language: donor economies are doing badly, calling into question their assumptions of always knowing best; emerging powers are doing well, implying different ways of doing things and providing poor countries with other avenues for trade and aid relationships; and poor countries are doing better economically than before, giving them more confidence and shaking off an attitude of dependence.”

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