Latest Developments, March 15

In the latest news and analysis…

BAE pays up
The Guardian reports UK-based defence company BAE Systems has “finally” paid for textbooks to Tanzanian schools as a settlement over bribes it allegedly paid 10 years ago.
“BAE was fined £500,000 in 2010 for concealing payments of $12.4m to Sailesh Vithlani, a marketing adviser in Tanzania, in connection with the radar deal. The company agreed with the [Serious Fraud Office] to make an ex-gratia payment equivalent to the size of the contract to the Tanzanian people. MPs on the international development committee last year strongly criticized BAE for dragging its feet over the payment. BAE wanted the payment to be described as a ‘charitable contribution’ to Tanzania in negotiations over the drafting of the memorandum of understanding.”

The problem with sanctions
The Atlantic’s Max Fisher argues the long list of products recently bought online by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad shows that Western sanctions against out-of-favour regimes punish the wrong people.
“International economic sanctions have been a popular tool of the West since the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the Reagan, H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations came to see them as a low-cost, low-risk alternative to military action. But a growing body of academic research has found that they are ineffective at pressuring governments to change their ways. ‘The probable effectiveness of economic sanctions is, generally, negative,’ Johan Galtung wrote in 1967, and he seems to have been right.”

E-waste
Agence France-Presse reports on a new study that suggests Africa will produce more e-waste than Europe within five years.
“ ‘There is population growth … and there is the penetration rate — there are increasing numbers of people with access to these devices,’ [the Basel Convention on hazardous waste’s Katharina] Kummer Peiry said.
‘You have to bear in mind that there are efforts undertaken at all levels to increase access — it’s part of development,’ she said, describing the growth of both the population and the penetration rate as ‘exponential.’

In Africa ‘in the last decade, the penetration rate of personal computers has increased by a factor of 10, while the number of mobile phone subscribers has increased by a factor of 100,’ the report said.”

Emptied islands
The University of Oxford’s Sarmila Bose writes about a new book on the Chagos Islands whose inhabitants “were unceremoniously removed from their homeland by a joint operation of the United Kingdom and the United States” four decades ago to make way for a military base.
The Island of Shame is a discomforting read, especially for British and American readers who will probably find themselves cringing at the well-documented account of the deceit and inhumanity, not only of their forbears in the past, but also of policymakers today. For many years, now the Chagossians have been fighting an uphill battle to obtain justice through the courts. Verdicts in the English courts had gone in favour of the Chagossians in 2000, 2006 and 2007 until the House of Lords overturned them all and ruled in favour of the British government. The Chagossians have now petitioned the European Court of Human Rights. Possibly as a pre-emptive action in case they win at the European Court, the last Labour government declared the Chagos Archipelago a ‘marine protection area’, which would restrict fishing and therefore human re-settlement. The Chagossians have had to take legal action against this ‘green’ initiative as well.”

Silicon Valley’s exceptionalism
Reuters Breakingviews’ Rob Cox takes on the myth that America’s high-tech business leaders operate according to higher moral standards than their counterparts in other industries.
“The original robber barons had decent intentions when they built railroads to connect America’s emerging cities and drilled oil wells that fueled the nation’s growth, but their empires still needed to be regulated, reined in, and in some cases broken up by vigilant watchdogs. Lofty words and ideals are fine for motivating employees and even for spurring sales, but they can also serve as cover for motives that clash with the broader interests of consumers and society. We need more than fancy promises in IPO prospectuses to ensure that the rise of the Silicon Valley engineer is good for the world.”

History’s limits
Oxfam’s Sally Baden suggests Ha-Joon Chang’s new book on agricultural policy focuses so much on lessons from the past that it neglects some fast-evolving new realities.
“We have moved from a situation of a lack of both public and private investment in agriculture to private funds actively seeking opportunities in developing country agriculture. But quite often this investment is driven by biofuels mandates, lack of other investment opportunities, the promise of increasing land values or by food-importing countries’ and companies’ concern with security of supplies of food and commodities, rather than the concerns of long-term agricultural development. Governments need to responsibly promote and regulate this investment with an eye to its consequences for small–scale farmers and national food security. European governments need to stop providing indirect incentives for landgrabbing and developing country governments need to provide adequate safeguards – for both people and the environment – from predatory or speculative investment.”

Drug money
Global Financial Integrity’s EJ Fagan argues that transnational drug syndicates’ huge financial resources do not “just magically disappear into the criminal underworld,” which means they end up in the global banking system.
“We can’t expect to curtail 100% of all money laundering by organized crime syndicates. However, we can do a much better job than we are currently doing. A report by [the United Nations Office of Drugs] finds that less than 1% (probably around .02%) of laundered money is seized and frozen. This is a laughably low number. It is too cheap and too easy for drug lords to move their drug money into Western banks. If we were to increase that number to, say, 5%, drug lords would be looking over their shoulders a lot more often. They would have more trouble operating large, complex organizations. Central American law enforcement would be much more able to beat them back.”

 

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